by Jim Kent
A recent Hate Crimes Forum in Rapid City, South Dakota turned out to be quite a different gathering than Lakota people attending the event anticipated it would be. The law enforcement panel explained the technicalities behind hate crimes laws. Members of the Native American community were hoping for a longer discussion about incidents toward Native Americans and other groups.
Representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Rapid City Police Department and Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, spoke for about 70 minutes on hate crimes, what they are and how they are prosecuted. They noted the difficulty in assigning the hate crimes designation to an offense and added that, collectively, they could not recall a hate crime being prosecuted in the Rapid City area.
After the panel presented, about 25 minutes was given for questions and comments. National Native News was asked not to tape audience remarks, but the vast majority of Native Americans there told us they were not happy with what they witnessed including a Native man, who asked not to be identified over fear for his safety.
“I left here 20 years ago because of this and I come back and it hasn’t changed one bit. What are we doing here? This is all just a show,” he said.
Stacey Low Dog advised the law enforcement panel that two non-Native women were brought to trial in 2009 for assaulting her niece. Both women were convicted of a hate crime.
“I expected a dialogue with the community,” said Low Dog. “I thought they would at least bring up this (her niece’s case), we successfully prosecuted this one hate crime. How they weren’t gonna’ tolerate this, it wasn’t even mentioned.”
Low Dog believes it is because of a lack of acknowledgement or interest in crimes against Lakota people that there is distrust of law enforcement in South Dakota by the Native community. U.S. Attorney Randy Seiler, who retires December 31, acknowledged the concerns expressed by Low Dog and others, noting there will be other forums in the future.
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by Antonia Gonzales
Members of the Washington, D.C. based-grassroots Rising Hearts group say they were behind Wednesday’s online campaign aimed at the Washington football team’s name. Fake articles on website parodies of The Washington Post, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the Bleacher Report and the Washington football team showed an updated logo and mascot noting the team ditched its R-word name and changed it to the Washington Redhawks.
Rising Hearts released a statement taking claim for the action, crafted as a culture jam. Culture jamming is a tactic used in social activism creating fake or hoax stories, logos and products to draw attention to an issue and/or critic it.
“One of the reasons we used this tactic is because we feel as Native people we face this giant wall of erasure and invisibility where it is really difficult to get accurate representation of ourselves in mainstream media,” said Rebecca Nagle, Cherokee Nation, a member of Rising Hearts.
The group said the action was a way to show the NFL team how easy it would be to change the name, a move Native advocates, many tribes and national Native organizations have long asked team owner Dan Snyder to do, calling the R-word a racial slur.
“In the first 12 hours of the website launching all our websites received over a half million visitors, the people who visited our websites Wednesday could fill FedEx Stadium five times over,” said Nagle. “Beyond the visitors to our website, people saw the culture jam on social media and in the news.”
The Washington football team released a statement Wednesday in response to the websites. The team said the name remains the Washington R******* and will remain for the future.
Reaction on social media included comments from people celebrating. Others expressed confusion or were upset over the dupe. Nagle believes there is support for the group’s Redhawks action in Indian Country, but acknowledges there are people who are not pleased.
“We’re open for dialog and feedback with people,” said Nagle. “Our goal is to take this platform this culture jam created to shed more light on this issue and in this moment of that sort of vail of invisibility being lifted really use it to get our message across to the non-Native world.”
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