Kevin McKiernan spent several weeks in South Dakota reporting on various events in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation - including the fatal shooting of two FBI agents and an Indian at the end of June. While there, McKiernan had a conversation with a Rapid City businessman, the night manager of a Western goods store, who asks to remain anonymous. The businessman discusses how Indian people are viewed by some people in the Rapid City white community.
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What's a there still are a lot of people that are afraid I get a lot of questions from people asking about the Indian Souls that do come ask if they're still causing trouble around and course. All I can really say is what I know locally here. And of course that's not all Indians either. It seems the guy that did shoot the guy across the street. He was an Indian. I don't want that. He wasn't didn't really say he's in a median or anything, but course that All Leads back to the same headquarters is right above the building that the guy that owned it got killed across the street. Yeah. It's a second story is where the M. Headquarters is right above me and he had The Sewing Center down below and the guy was supposedly got the wrong door and came in there. The man is scored at him out in the guy come back over half hour 45 minutes later and shot him right from his home place.You've lived in Rapid City all your life. Do you think that you could speak generally for people's feelings in the city? How do people in Rapid City feel about Indians? Well, most of the people know like local businessman most of the businessman downtown in that aspect know most of the Indians and they've formed an opinion as to why there's two classifications of Indians are here in Rapid City. There's the ones that work and there's the ones that are drunk and I mean that's just the way they classified him. And so the there's a lot of Indians here in town and have very good credit can come in and charge anything and they'll step a little over their normal boundaries for a lot of them cuz they ain't it just the same as seen on treating same as everybody else and if he's a good friend and little more but another one comes walking through the door with the red armband. First thing is we should take one. Lot of Paces will send one of their employees is to follow that guy with the red armband or the red band around his head or something new and written on his jacket. They'll watch those little closer. What does a red arm band signify another self? That's usually it's it's the symbol at the aim started when they were here is wearing the red armbands red headbands red ribbons in their hair or red letters on the back their jacket ain't like that and that's a lot of them where those now course. There's a local Indians that are only a minions when they're same leaders inntowner. There's causing trouble the rest of the time they're just the local Indian, but they're usually most people around here to join a more mostly local trouble cuz there's some way back. Anyway, it just gives them a new reason. Why is it well, I mean what I mean is is like a lot of these guys. You may see him walking down the street one day just a dirty. Jean jacket in the next day when there's like we had a little trouble at the Federal Building rain come in and occupied that for an afternoon was all really amounted to but there sure are a lot of those local boys wearing are red jackets and are red armbands and everything. So they're only just as Brave as when they've got somebody else to back him up. What was the occupation in the Federal Building about I'm not sure what the complaint was but what the deal was but a man and there's a bunch of them in here bunch of members of a team and they just kind of had it more of a peaceful demonstration and I'll sit on the front porch and everything is just more less stop business for the federal building for that day. And it only lasted one afternoon by 7 a.m. That evening is all over with there was no violence took place in as far as I know there wasn't any arrests. It was just a It was better off if they didn't try to cause anything Police Department. I think in a way from what I've talked. I know a lot of local policemen and they kind of bent over backwards just kind of avoid anything and finally they left they commanded made trouble for the day and left. Do people in Rapid City make a distinction between the American Indian movement and other Indian people? Well, all I can say is anybody that has any trouble with an Indian is kind of a running joke amongst people. If you got a bad check from someone with an Indian name. I mean like fire Thunder something like that you automatically associate that with an Indian. Of course, if you get a bad check from them, it's kind of a joke to say while I must be near me Indian but he's probably had written bad checks for years long before a member started. But you do notice that the associated with things like that any any bad Indians any like in Rapid City, they they finally done away with the public intoxication in Rapid City is it used to be a rule as I know from going like yeah, you spilled hot rods in eyes in a lot of trouble like traffic violations and half of the traffic court in local Court was for public intoxication. I'd say 99% of those were Indians. and so like I say anybody that was local drunk now, he's named Indian, you know course A lot of them have turned to be in a medium, but it just gives him I may be a little better feeling. You know, what is an amen. well As far as the local people a definition I would say that you get for most local people is he's a trouble raise or you don't Hellraiser trouble Kaiser. He's the local drunk not all the local drunks are Amy Indians, but that's the way they can classify them anymore. I mean, that's just anybody that that they look down on like drunks or the guys that Cause trouble or anything those date kind of classified but as far as just a straight a minion the definition I would give us be the members of the American Indian movement. And those are the guys that can add jatate adult trouble with Is there a difference between local people than and American Indian movement people? Like I say there's two classes the drunken Indian and working in in in the working Indian will have nothing to do with the name Indian. In fact, they'd that's the first way to start a good fight as if you walk up to a local Indian. Tell him your name Indian. He be the first guy to knock your head off about actually the most of the local people like that. Like I say that the batter Indians they they thought everything was fine. Most of my Corsair is prejudiced here definitely, but of course, it's the bad ones that caused it. but I would say that you're a mendian is you know, and all that is just caused from the bad guys anymore. Do you feel another words that prejudice against Indians in Rapid City for example is caused by bad Indians. Well, yeah most of it now like here. I've got a lot of friends. Of course, I did live on a reservation for a while. I've got a lot of friends that are Indians and in fact the bit my best friend and he's going to be my best man at my wedding when I get married. This fall isn't Indian. He's a full-blooded Indian and I've definitely got nothing against him, but he works here in town and his credits good and he's never written a bad check and anything like that course. I've got some friends that are white and written bad checks and everything else, but they're still my friends of course, but I don't know. That's the like I say there's a main prejudices against the guys like the people next door that are drunk and panhandling on the street all time, and he definitely running to that down here. As the operator of the store here in Rapid City. Are you afraid of Indians know I'd like a sad lived with them all my life on and off the reservation and they've got a standing rule in here. We always especially the manager he will say to anyone whether they're drunk or a minion anything if they're causing trouble specially the drug, she'll say leave and sometimes your bodily escort him out the door and he'll say come back anytime When You're Sober, And I have more trouble with drunks and say they mean it's cuz they only come back once in a while, but I just have more trouble for local drunks. Do you keep a gun in your store? Yes, definitely. Do I got a shotgun in the store? What is a definitely well, like I say the trouble I've had lately shooting a guy right across the street from me. In fact to the people to the girls at work your I was not at the store at the time and the manager was on vacation. I wasn't here at the time but the two girls that worked here both saw the guy shoot the man and have given their names to the police department and are willing to be Witnesses against the guy. Do you have a feeling though that the American Indian movement might come in your store. Do you keep a shotgun for that reason? Not really. I keep it more for the local Indians. I've never had in the store that I know of any trouble with just saying. Amen. Indian is to classify a man's name in the most trouble I have is just with the drunks. And of course, I have some whites in here that are drugs. It's just I'm in a bad location right here. Could you speculate as a South Dakota citizen on the causes of Indian poverty? Lot of it's our own foolishness. I live down there. Now. I know for a fact and I can take you and show you the government has set up a course. Now, I'm own opinion. They are cheap houses. But anyhow is better than nothing, you know, and you can the government builds new housing projects all the time. And I've seen him wear brand new houses. They will hawk or take every anything like the copper tubing anything in the water system that they can sell electrical outlets anything they can sell to get money to buy booze. Now. This course doesn't affect all I'm lot of them. They're just living there and keep a very nice place but a lot of run the place down sell anything that's sellable of appliances. Will they will actually sell the furnace system out of the house the heating system and then tear up the walls and use for firewood. Keep warm. Would you say that the causes of Indian poverty are more black of ambition or more Prejudice on the part of white paper? I would say Ashley on the government's part. It is bad to and that's what they did correct part of that. They used to give him so much money per month. They Indians in course, the the good are the better class of Indian would go in that he buy food with his and of course, it's kind of not really a welfare type thing, but they were allowed sort on you order food stamps. If you were so much Indian and had a card you were loud so much government food. Also in Commodities gnats, like in bulk like dry rice 25 lbs or so. It depends upon a course how much Indian you are but they used to give Mall money and that didn't work out because all the ones who would spend it on getting drunk and just were say what you called the no-goods. They wouldn't, you know wouldn't try to better themselves. They they'd spend all heirs on booze and everything so they kind of cut down on the money so much and up two Commodities more and started building more housing projects. But now that the Indians still get around in like I say, Anything saleable out of the house glass windows anything they can sell they'll take that out and sell it to get money to get drunk on. Why is that why I noticed several times in the conversation that you associate Indian people with liquor. Why is that? What kind of connection do you see there? What are the origins of that? Why I really don't know how it started at course. There's a lot of them feel that they're Prejudiced and put down and I realized it in this area that is done a lot of it and that caused a lot of you later people that have turned in drugs, maybe the prejudiced in the trouble lately of causing become drink or same as like in the ghettos, you find a lot of Alcoholics and everything, but I think originally on reservation all you are allowed to drink they are not allowed legally to sell anything about 3.2 beer on it reservation. But of course you boys got the bathtub gin thing. I think that started a lot of it, you know on the reservations. There's a lot of fact like the movies that show that the Indians were not allowed like the fire water and ice or like probation. If you couldn't have it at this was more of a thing than to get it course, that's kind of like marijuana is now at the illegal but that makes it more in demand because you doing something in his legal, you know, and I think that's what kind of started it and in a lot. I'm just picked it up from well, like I said at the same as like in ghettos dad was a drunk and I grew up to be a drunk and my son will probably be a drunk to you know, and that's just like it's a kind of the same thing. A lot of parts of the reservation is just like a big city get only scared scattered out, you know in Morven So what you were saying another words that you would associate the poverty with the alcoholism. He lives just off the reservations livers gas. And now a lot of them would trade like their food commodities for fuel oil to him what she actually isn't supposed to do so I'm not going to say who it is cuz it's illegal for him to do that. But none of them would ever blow the whistle. I'm due to the fact that that's the only way they kept warm and he has done this but Also, a lot of them will sell her food commodities or Hawk anything that they can to get money to buy booze. And like I say that's another way they got around actually part of the poverty is their own ignorance cuz they are if you're a certain amount of Indian you are supplied with so much if you're living on the reservation and some of them dry even off the reservation. For the more Indian blood you have any of the more you can drive from the government in money and food and everything you get also. I don't know how the clothing goes on that. I suppose a figure you should take your clothing out of the money. They give you a lot of it, but it isn't like as if they give him a stamp that said that you had to use this for clothing only instead. I suppose a that comes out of the money they give him but most Now, I don't know how to classify that either I'd say the town I lived in was just off the reservation and the most of the Indians that I'm at there where the drunks that do. The fact you can buy any wine, which is a cheap drunk is cheap wine. You can buy any wine on the reservation this town I lived in was just authorization. You can tell the day they got their least checks cuz that afternoon and all for a couple days until I run out of money they'd all be in the bar there in this in that town and they'd all be drunk. But of course that's like I say living on the reservation the guy I work for was a white man a leased Land from the government. And what's the old bombing range down here that was used for target practice for bombers during World War II? And he would hire Indians and he would get a little of each. I mean he would get an Indian fellow would come in work for months without any problem. Then he get those at work until the first time they got paid and you never see him again. But of course, I'd like to say go same for any white Man 2 on the reservation. Is there friction between say white ranchers or other white people on the reservation in India. Well, there might be a little more towards local Indian there used to be but as a general rule most of the time they just ignored the bad ones. I mean like the drunks they just ignore the most land is kind of like a past they have to they knew that those Indians were going to be there when they moved in there cuz like a lot of those white ranchers are on the reservation leasing Land from the government have got every right to do anything to that land. They want to as long as they pay their least to the government don't they lease the land from the Indian people they leased the land from the government as far as I understand it on the reservation and but now most of that Buy me an actually legally on reservation to lease land from them. I think you have to be Indian or lease through the Indian that has the legal right to that land. Now course, like I say the least checked, I think they're made right out to the federal government and then the federal government and turn the Watts it back to the people that it belongs to supposedly. I don't know how fac you're at. That is either. But it's definitely not a not a fair deal. I think that the the federal government part of it Indian deal down there like the Bia that could be remodel quite a bit. In what way is well course, I can't prove it. But just from what I know that I've heard and can do, you know could really prove on paper but it's a fairly general fact a lot of that is like any other governmental deal. It's come out lately a lot of guys or skim a little off the top and they're not always sending back the money to where blondes actually news publicity of the occupation of Wounded Knee indicated that one of the targets of the occupants in their grievances in their demands were the white ranchers in other white people living on the reservation. In your own experience. Was that a threat to those people? Well the white ranchers as soon as like a moved in there and started causing trouble the first thing most of the white ranchers like you say immediately Associated the same with the bad Indians and a lot of the ranchers you would find carrying guns in their cars riding horseback. They had guns. Another thing is the aim there was a white man live within a few miles of Wounded Knee and had a bunch of cattle in quite a few of his cattle are slaughtered for nice food for those that were in the wound in the area and they seem to pick out a white man's Ranch that they took it from and of course news travels that the Indian Scout is Catalan for said cause bad feelings to right there, but that was more towards a mean is like I said, most of local people live down there live with those Indians all their life and they know which ones are the are the better ones and which ones aren't Were some of the demands of the occupants in would it need to reclaim a lot of Indian treaty lands in Western South Dakota including lands in and around Wounded Knee? Well, I don't know how how they set that up. And what kind of demand say we're mad or what really were the demands due to the fact that a lot of that was kept pretty secret cuz it was a pretty touch-and-go deal and they didn't want it. You don't get it out cuz there's a lot of local people would become very upset. If they find out the government was dealing with Mount Rushmore something like that because as far as on paper shows that they repaid the Indians far more than what actually the land was worth according to the treaty when they took the Black Hills recently. I read in the newspaper that the land claim courts has offered. Sioux Indians in Western South Dakota compensation for the Black Hills including Mount Rushmore and the Sioux Nation has rejected that offer saying that it was not enough because of all the gold for example that was taken out of the Black Hills cuz like I say most of the people that make up the government down, there are we're perfectly happy before a team ever came in and if they get more money, I don't see why they would reject it. Unless of course, there are some I'm turning over towards Am side. Most of them are perfectly happy with the way things were before name ever came in here. And that most likely say most of them pretty happy and they didn't really have any grape now that I don't know about. I don't I never read that anywhere since so, I don't know about that and soon as far as like the talk around. I haven't heard much about that are the people you call local Indians Been Changed by the American Indian movement. Most of them haven't what I'd like x a class of if you want to put them in the classification the goodie Indian say haven't changed much other than they are bitter towards the Amy Indian. But now the local guy that just needed to go to excuse to raise a little hell and get in trouble anyway and was in trouble all the time. He is turn towards name Indian, but that's only when there's more Amy Indians in town the guy you normally see would never wear a red armband, but the minute like when they had trouble with the federal at the federal building and they had the set sit in there and everything lot of the local ones that were troublemakers it I mean I could name off by name lot of those are suddenly wearing red armbands and everything else, but I think it's just kind of a hay day for them. How do people in South Dakota feel about the fact that apparently most of the Wounded Knee occupants who have gone to trial have been freed by the courts were by juries. Well now South Dakota is actually into sections is East the river and west of the river. Now those east of the river really don't have that much of an opinion on his safe close to the people are close to around here. And the only thing I got to say is if it if a name Indian killed a white man and get away with it. That would I'm afraid would cause one hell of an uproar around here. It's pretty touch-and-go right. Now. Most of the people aren't too satisfied with the way it turned out. But of course I even most of the trails were taken completely out of state due to the fact that there was too many people Prejudice either way around here in it. Like I say if something else came up, I'm afraid it would cause a lotta then be a lot of uproar most years what used to be your local peaceful citizen is liable to cause all kinds of trouble cuz the people around here just the tension is been too much and they're just fed up with it, and I can't take any more of it. Are there reserved groups of white people who would do something about the American Indian movement if it was not done by other means course. I don't know how many of the people letter all Brave now would actually show up if they asked him to if they decided they were going to get up some kind of deal like that. But there are a lot of people that definitely say they would but of course, you know how many show out and have and how many say they would is two different things but there are a lot of people that would definitely I think if they got around to where they were shooting people back and forth or to be a lot of them show up immediately did it end up another vigilante group Round Here the fact of it is I really don't pay that much attention to do the fact I'm sick and tired of hearing about it that same as like most people are sick and tired of Vietnam. That's all you ever heard on the news. Well, that's all it goes on in. The local news here is about the same trials. Most people just kind of turned themselves out to it really don't care maybe not care, but they're just tired of listening to him. What is it about the American Indian movement that local people dislike the most? Well, I think it said it might have roused a few more of the old old rowdies and kind of got him back in circulation Rapid City, of course in statistics is always had a fairly high crime rate, but most of it was nothing like murders or shootings or anything like that. It just been course now, I don't know how much of this is been caused by that but it just seems to the people as a very good coincidence the wave have had a lot of trouble. We had a shooting here that a man was killed the other one. We had a burglary in which a man the man that owned the house caught a burglar in his house and was stabbed numerous times by the burglar then finally got a gun and killed a burglar while he was in the hospital intensive care Ward somebody drove past his house and shot it full of holes. Incidents associated with the American Indian movement. I would not say as much of the American Indian movement as just the fact that they started most of the big trouble in South Dakota or say this part of South Dakota. And like I said, I think it made a lot of people a little more braver than they used to be if you were thinking ever thinking about doing anything dishonest. The Rapid City area right now is in such a touch-and-go area that if you were ever going to be brave now's as good a time as any to do it. Would you distinguish between those kinds of crimes burglary and murder crimes involving shooting of human beings with Incidents which people would call or might call political in nature. well I don't like it's the everything right now is being associated back to the a meaning as much as I can do the fact that the local people that are named are very much against them. So anything that happens they try to figure out an angle to get back at him traitor and it did upset a lot more people when the trial's went the other way and they're did ever get really to the jury's and most of those guys got off and I really don't know if the guy that liked was Robin that guy's house was an Indian at all. As far as I know. In fact, I think he was a white man as far as I know but they the local people to talk to you as well. He wouldn't have been brave enough to go in Rob somebody's house unless it wouldn't been for all the trouble we've had lately. Would you reject the notion that the American Indian movement is engaged in a civil rights struggle? Well, I can't see if they've got enough backing most of your problem with him is just still the same small group of people. I picked up a few more but they're really not like the civil rights. Do you like say it was for the colored people? Cuz they had well when they would have their marches for long-distance, they would pick up thousands and thousands of people along the way and I know if they minions March through here, they might lose a few. I mean there might take a few potshots Mountain the weed. I don't think they gained that many people. It's I wasn't part of that reason that there are 20 or 30 or 40 million black people in the United States and only several hundred thousand Indians. These people don't have a local support like the Civil Rights the Alexey for the colored people had a lot of your Regular say you're middle class colored people wear for the Civil Rights change at that time. But your say your middle-class Indian. He's perfectly happy the way he has well, maybe not perfectly happy but not enough to try to get into it. This is more of a militant group and it is more of a political group. I mean, that's more the way it's been classified there more out to kind of the way it's looked because they've never really handled anything peacefully. I mean everything is been they had to go in occupied someplace rather than sitting down agreeing upon a meeting somewhere. They've went in like when they took over there was a packing plant. They took over in the eastern part of the state and that's the way they've been doing things and they just come in and take something over to get attention rather than saying that we will meet with you here and we'll sit down and have a meeting they went to the more of a drastic think there were a series of meetings with the white owner of the packing plant in eastern South Dakota before that take over. Is that not a fact well now that of course is on the other end of the state and that I don't know that much about other than what I read and like I say, I begin to believe that what you read a newspaper or hear on the radio isn't always true anyway, and that's like you say we've had a lot of bad publicity including the flood and the flood was the first bad thing. We really had and so I don't always believe everything I read in the paper anymore and I kind of rely more on what my friends tell me course that is noise true either. But when you get nine out of 10 people tell you the same thing most of the time unless he's a town gossip most of the time I go for that I mean, Most people that I even be sending my information on the course of the same everybody else does he's never lied to me before? Why should he now, but of course, he might have heard that from somebody else has the violence been caused by the American Indian movement, or has it been a reaction to and from white people? Well, most of the violence at first was caused like by a takeover and then the the violent the rest of it from there on was a reaction to it. But I mean most of the time I can say they have started with a takeover of some sort of just coming in moving right into a place and saying we've got this now and the biggest most of the violence was a reaction to that. They might have very peacefully like as far as I know when they took over one didn't either weren't any injuries. They just come in and said we're taking over the church that they were in they moved into it and the guy that owned the church and everything or it was and it there was a tourist wild like a tourist trap a trading post type thing there and they took over that in the church and the people that owned it just moved out from Fear more than anything, you know one just got out of there and then any of the violence that happened after that was a reaction to the Takeover, I think and I was far as I know you mean violence on the part of federal police who surrounded wanted me. Well, right and then of course, it's hard to say who shot first, you know, or what actually happened. Of course unless you were there and actually saw what happened in those people aren't really sure either. But most of the violence usually happened after the Takeover. Usually it wasn't like a violent take over there wasn't like a gun battle to take the place. It was most of it as far as I know was any of any of the violence was the reaction to the taking whatever they done. Can I ask you a personal question? Do you feel that you were prejudiced against Indian people? Well, I'm prejudiced against what I classify in my own mind is a bad Indian and that's like the drunks and the people have to put up with down here and that's right next to the bar and everything that there is here. There is a lot of Indian people that are in here drunk. Of course, there's a lot of white people that come in here and I am definitely prejudiced against them. Now. I can't say I'd marry an Indian girl. I went out with Indian girls before and everything but you know, I really can't see me that was the reason I didn't ever decide to marry one. But like I say the guy that's going to be the best man at my wedding is an Indian so Maybe I appreciate it more than my father does. My father is a little more prejudiced. I think than I am. But in fact by far more took a long time before that my best friend could come out to my house and you don't hardly talk to my father wouldn't talk to him hardly at all. Now, they find out he was that the guy is my friend whether he likes it or not him to getting along pretty good now. But at first he didn't I would say that my dad has more prejudiced than I do, but I still have prejudiced against course. I would rather sit next to a clean Indian or clean negro any day than sat next to a dirty white person. That's always been my attitude. Like I say so far. I just feel that it's as long as you've done nothing wrong to me. My general attitude is I'd and I really don't have anything against you. As long as you haven't done anything to me. What did you mean about the party that you would not marry an Indian girl? Well, that's like an old saying like I'm not prejudice against the Negroes, but I'd never let my daughter marry a colored guy, you know or something like that. I haven't really. Decided if while I don't know how you really decide if you are prejudiced, I don't go running around saying I hate all Indians to where everybody would think that I'm prejudiced but I also don't go around saying that I'd love all the Indians either. You know, I just kind of kept most of it to myself to the fact it is kind of a touch-and-go thing here in this area, but I don't know I'd suppose I do have a certain Prejudice but not against all Indian cities by the best way. I can say it that's like I have a prejudiced against certain colored people in certain white people but not against all of them. Is there anything you like to say that you feel and I haven't touched on? Actually, I think that there is been a lot of trouble here in like I say, I think everybody's getting a bad deal. I think that like like I say a lot of people any time something happens with an Indian if he does something wrong, right automatically is classified as name Indian, but then also to Dave cost a lot of hard feelings around here and that's kind of the way the situation is that's all there is to it. You think that Indiana white people will begin to live together or do you see Indian people pulling away and isolating themselves and trying to return to perhaps a life of their ancestors. I really don't because for one thing as far as I can tell like for meeting from history books that the Indian population through through a Long Winter half of them died and I think a lot of realize that now bottom or trying to get something changed but I can't see him pulling away from each other cuz like I say, there's a lot of fun in your higher in the say the higher Society side of town where the nicer houses There's Indian families living there and I didn't see any of them trying to sell our house and move out but your middle-class unions that work that are workers and work with the white people most of the time. I don't see anything. I don't see that they're going to change much really they haven't even really tried pretty change same was the first thing that ever happened in that was kind of a blow to the local Indians as well as it was to the white people around here. Until Wounded Knee, they never really paid much attention to him either way until it hit right here.