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News Release

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

 A Rapid City, SD hotelier’s declaration on social media that she won’t allow Native Americans on her properties has prompted swift and strong blowback from surrounding tribes and advocates.

On March 20, Connie Uhre, who owns The Grand Gateway Hotel, posted on Facebook: “We will no longer allow any Native American on property.” Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairwoman Janet Alkire quickly submitted a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting an investigation into what she sees as a clear case of racial discrimination.

“Pursuant to the 14th Amendment, Congress enacted the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations,” Alkire wrote. “In Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States, 379 U.S. 241 (1964), the Supreme Court held that Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a valid exercise of Congress' power, and Title II prohibits racial discrimination in public accommodations. The Department of Justice has the responsibility to enforce the Civil Rights Act prohibition against denial of access to public accommodations based upon race.”

Alkire also sent a letter to fellow Great Plains tribal leaders encouraging solidarity. “This type of discriminatory behavior cannot be tolerated, and will not be tolerated,” she wrote. “Allowing this type of discrimination to occur without repercussion will undeniably set a precedent for other business owners to follow suit, and ultimately cause civil unrest.”

On Monday, the Lakota People’s Law Project, an Indigenous rights organization, set up an online action so people can quickly echo Standing Rock’s request to Attorney General Garland. A pair of protests, including a march on Saturday, have attracted hundreds of Native people from a host of tribal nations, and a class action lawsuit has also been filed in the western division of South Dakota’s U.S. District Court.

“Laws, in of themselves, won’t change discriminatory behavior,” Alkire said. “They must be enforced. The Department of Justice should step in quickly, investigate, and prosecute. We need to send a clear message: it’s unacceptable that Native people still face open racism in our daily lives, especially here in our own homelands.”

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