By Tessa Faust
On January 24th a group of Native Americans had beer poured on them, had racist slurs yelled at them and were told to “go back to the rez” at a Rapid City Rush hocky game. The group was from American Horse School, which is on the Pine Ridge reservation. The students were ages 9-13, accompanied by a few chaperones and a parent with a four-yearold child. They were on a trip with the 21st Century Program and the trip was for academic success and has been going on for five years.
The group ended up leaving the game early during the third period. “I found it offensive because not only were Native American kids abused, the person that did it didn’t get charged with anything serious” junior Francisco Merrik-Lopez said. Rapid City Journal’s article on the event headline read “Did Native Students Stand For National Anthem?” The article was controversial due to the fact that the headline victim blamed. They have since released an apology.
The school plans to press charges because some are considering the incident civil harassment and a hate crime. “They were being rewarded for good behavior, and these drunk, white men ruined that for them” said Angie Sam a mother of one of the students to National Public Radio. Craig Baltzer, executive director of the Rushmore Civics Center, declined to release the name of the company who rented the VIP seating. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. Some of the things being said to the children were racially charged.” said Baltzar to KOTA. He went on to express his disappointment and talked about inviting the students back.
“I don’t find it good enough because if I were the students, I wouldn’t have gone back. I would probably not want something more. It feels like we deserve something more” Merrik-Lopez said. Trace O’Connell age 41 is charged with disorderly conduct and faces 30 days in jail and $500 if he is convicted. Many people are upset that he isn’t facing child abuse or assault charges. “Its stupid. People that do something like that to any race are ignorant,” said junior Deveron Baxter.