Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed After South Dakota Hotel Threatened to Ban Native Americans

  • An indigenous activist group has filed a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit against the hotel
  • Grand Gateway Hotel’s owner threatened to ban Native Americans after a shooting incident
  • NDN Collective is seeking justice through the lawsuit and does not just want to send a message
  • A protest march also took place in Rapid City following the threats
gavel next to a book titled "CIVIL RIGHTS"
An activist group in South Dakota has filed a civil rights lawsuit following a hotel owner’s threat to ban Native Americans from the property. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Concerning threats

An activist group has filed a lawsuit after a hotel owner in Rapid City, South Dakota threatened to ban Native Americans from the property. The NDN Collective, a South Dakota-based indigenous activist group, revealed this week that it will file a federal civil rights class-action lawsuit as a result of the hotel’s alleged discriminatory and racist treatment of Native Americans.

she could no longer “allow a Native American to enter our business, including Cheers”

The basis of the dispute relates to an incident at the Grand Gateway Hotel in South Dakota. A shooting took place on Saturday in one of the rooms that left one person injured and a suspect arrested. Both individuals are Native American. Following the incident, the owner of the hotel took to Facebook to say that she could no longer “allow a Native American to enter our business, including Cheers.”

Connie Uhre’s son, the manager of the hotel, has denied that banning Native Americans is a hotel policy. He spoke about the threats that his family has been receiving and they are contemplating closing the hotel. An official statement from the hotel on Wednesday also made an apology for the comments, saying that the property is “committed to being a welcoming, inclusive place for everyone.”

Fighting for justice

Naturally, people were quick to condemn the hotel owner’s comments. After hearing about Connie Uhre’s stance, NDN Collective CEO and president Nick Tilsen said that members of the group went to the hotel and tried to get a room to see if the threats were real. They were unable to book a room at that time. Tilsen claimed that it was a civil rights violation.

The Cheers Sports Lounge Casino at the Grand Gateway Hotel offers video lottery terminals.

Brendan Johnson is the legal representative of NDN Collective and in describing the plan to file the class-action lawsuit, he said that it is “on behalf of all of the Native Americans in our community who have been discriminated against.” Johnson noted that it is likely going to be a lengthy legal process and urged people to be patient. He confirmed that the NDN Collective wanted to file the lawsuit to get justice and not just send a message.

Protesting against discrimination

In addition to filing legal action, the NDN Collective held a protest march in Rapid City. The march ended at city hall with a press conference. Protestors claimed that the hotel owner’s comments are just one example of continuous racism and discrimination from certain people in the Rapid City region. Many of the protestors believe that the only way to stop these types of incidents from continuing to happen is by taking action.

should not have to grow up in a world that degrades and disrespects them”

Explaining how Native Americans are feeling in the area was NDN Action managing director Korina Barry, who said: “Our children should not have to grow up in a world that degrades and disrespects them because of the color of their skin or the culture they come from.”