On Friday, a Native man in Rapid City, South Dakota was attacked by a Highway Patrol officer and K9 unit who called to the scene after a minor altercation. In a video on social media, a witness filmed the K9 unit attacking the man for over two minutes even after the police officer shoots him with a stun gun. In response to the horrific incident, NDN Collective President and CEO Nick Tilsen released the following statement:
“This shows exactly how Native people in Rapid City are treated by police. Regardless of the situation before the video begins, the man was unarmed and posed no threat to the officer or the K9 unit. The officer was the one who made it violent.
“A Native man taking a step forward on our own land is not an act of violence or a threat. A police officer attacking with an animal and using excessive force is an act of violence.
“Why didn’t the officer make an arrest? This is not the proper use of K9 units. Clearly the tax-paying dollars of this state are being used to create a militarized police state, when the dollars should be used to improve education, create livable wage jobs, fight the housing and homeless crisis, and combat COVID-19.
“This is a symptom of a greater systemic issue in South Dakota, where Indigenous people have our lands illegally occupied, our people jailed at unconscionable numbers, and our relatives attacked by police and animals with impunity. To make our communities safe, we must abolish policing and redirect their funds towards systems of care that allow all communities to flourish without violence and protect the rightful sovereignty of Indigenous Peoples in our lands.”
- The Black Hills of South Dakota, including the land that Rapid City, South Dakota occupies, is all unceded Lakota territory per the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie. A 1980 Supreme Court decision upheld that this land is still illegally occupied and under the rightful sovereignty of the Lakota people.
- South Dakota leads the nation in incarceration per capita
- Although Natives make up 8.7 percent of South Dakota’s population, they are roughly half of those booked into jails in the state.
- According to data from the Vera Institute of Justice, Natives between the ages of 15 and 64 are incarcerated at 10 times the rate of white people in South Dakota.
- A 2014 Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice report found that Native Americans were the most likely racial group to be killed by law enforcement.
NDN Collective is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power. Through organizing, activism, philanthropy, grantmaking, capacity-building and narrative change, we are creating sustainable solutions on Indigenous terms.