The Lakota People’s Law Project is pleased to announce the release of a 12-page report detailing the unequal treatment of Native Americans by the Untied States criminal justice system.
The release runs parallel to a large march led by Lakota People’s Law Project Attorney Chase Iron Eyes, who has led the Native Lives Matter movement that continues to gather momentum in Rapid City, South Dakota.
“This fact-based report unequivocally shows that at best the institutions in South Dakota are culturally biased, at worst they are blatantly racist and bent on perpetuating a slow genocide,” said Chase Iron Eyes. “The recent anecdotal incidents along with the statistics presented in this report demonstrate that racism against Native Americans is palpable. It will not go anywhere unless we unite as a people and stand together against it.”
The next step in taking this stand will commence at noon on Thursday, February 26 as Chase Iron Eyes will lead the “All Relations Community March Against Racism” beginning at the Lakota Homes in Rapid City.
Copies of the Lakota People’s Law Project report will be distributed to members of the media and supporters of the growing movement to demand more justice for Indians in South Dakota.
Key findings of the report include:
• Native Americans are most likely to be killed by law enforcement.
• Native youths suffer the two most severe outcomes of the juvenile justice system—out of home placement and transfer to the adult penitentiary system.
• Native Americans are more likely to be victims of violent crimes perpetrated by non-Native people than any other group.
• Native American youth is 1 percent of the youth population, but represents 70 percent of the youth admitted to the federal bureau of prisons.
“Much attention has been devoted to the black populations in urban centers in American cities. The focus on police brutality is justified and will hopefully bring about change,” said Chase Iron Eyes. “But Native Americans are treated just as poorly, if not worse, by law enforcement, and we receive little to no media coverage, have almost no political clout and our struggles are not part of a national conversation.”
Thursday’s rally is in direct response to the Rapid City Police Department’s decision to give a disproportionately light punishment to a man who allegedly poured beer on middle school-aged Indian children and spewed hateful language at a hockey game.
The incident escalated, engaging more hateful and aggressive participants as time went on. While the police assured the public they were investigating multiple perpetrators in this incident for alleged hate crimes that could have been as serious as assault against children, a serious felony that carries jail time, they ended up giving one of the alleged participants what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
“Disorderly conduct is not going to suffice,” said Chase Iron Eyes, posting on Last Real Indians, the Native web media outlet he manages. “There needs to be a charge, one that includes or relates to the racially motivated nature of this crime. If necessary, that charge(s) should come from the South Dakota U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
The failure to charge the alleged perpetrator(s) with a more serious crime solidifies a pattern of incidents that demonstrate law enforcement’s unfair approach to Indian people living in South Dakota. This includes the police killing of a Native man in front of his wife and kids in Rapid City just days after he participated in a Native Lives Matter Rally, the police tasering of an 8-year-old girl, and the dropping of twenty one out of twenty two felony charges against a child rapist who sexually abused his Native foster care children for more than a decade.
The rapist who should have been in prison for life, will be out in six years.
The recently released report not only details the myriad of injustices the criminal justice system in South Dakota presents to Indian people, but it also offers recommendations, including investing more money in tribal Family Service Programs, investing in tribal drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, establishing more cultural awareness and sensitivity training for the police, hiring more Native American police, and generating community policing programs.
The Lakota People’s Law Project has been partnering with tribes and leaders in South Dakota since 2005 from its offices in Rapid City, South Dakota and Santa Cruz, California. LPLP’s activities have included funding and supporting Native experts to provide technical assistance to the tribes on family and child welfare issues. The project combines public interest law, investigation, research, education and organizing into a unique model for advocacy and social reform.
The Lakota People's Law Project is sponsored by the nonprofit Romero Institute based in Santa Cruz, California. The Institute is named after slain human rights advocate Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The Institute seeks to identify and dismantle structural sources of injustice and threats to the survival of our human family.