During the holidays is a time when we think of our relatives who are locked up. Many handed down sentences for sentences that span into decades. Being a Native American in South Dakota, although we do not make up half the population in the state more than half of the prison and jail population is Native American. Not to mention all those who are sent to federal prison off the reservations. Coincidentally in the state, the statistics are about the same for the Native American children who are shuffled into the foster care system.
After this year’s controversial trial with Trace O’Connell who was found not guilty for spilling beer on more than 50 Lakota children at a hockey game while screaming racial slurs and telling them to go back to the reservation, as if the land he was on wasn’t rightfully their land. Not only was Trace O’Connell found not guilty, he was only charged with a misdemeanor in what clearly should have been a hate crime.
Many of these crimes that white people get away with in the state has now been proven that white people can commit crimes on our reservations and get away with it. Last summer white police officer Rebecca Sotherland was filmed by a passerby who saw her tazing an intoxicated man 23 times before people worried about him, helped her load him in the cop car.
Sotherland was fired, soon after a federal grand jury saw enough evidence to indict her for deprivation of rights while under color of the law; assault with a dangerous weapon; and obstruction of a federal investigation by filing a false report.. Ms. Sotherland went to trial at the beginning of December 2015 in the federal court with no media coverage until the jury came to a not guilty verdict on December 8th, 2015. The jury took three days to decide that the man was laying there not responding after being tazed 28 times to avoid going to jail.
One has to wonder if any of the members of the jury were not white? If the cop had been Native American would they have received a not guilty verdict? Is this the first time and only an officer on the reservation used excessive force and filed a false report?
Rapid City and the state of South Dakota has proven once again they are set back in a time where race matters and native lives do not. Change will not happen until voices are heard.
Video footage of officer Rebecca Sotherland tazing unresponsive man http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=020_1408404358