FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rapid City, SD – Over the weekend, security at the Central States Fair in Rapid City forced at least three Native American men to turn their T-shirts and clothing inside out before entering. One shirt read “NDN Collective,” another read “American Indian Movement,” and a third was a vest with patches reading “American Indian Movement,” “I am My Brother’s Keeper,” and “Remember Wounded Knee.”
Security officers claimed that there were no organizational logos or colors allowed. However, the Central States Fair’s policy on attire only states that “shirt and shoes are required,” and “exposed underwear, vulgar or inappropriate clothing, gang colors or gang signs are not allowed.”
Images of the NDN Collective shirt that Indigenous attendee was forced to turn inside out. Photos courtesy of NDN Collective.
Meanwhile, many walked freely through the fair wearing clothing with organizational affiliations on them – which some observers say included Hell’s Angels, bikers with their colors on their vests, pro-Trump language, thin blue line references, and other political language.
“This type of discrimination is nothing new – we’ve dealt with it throughout history, and continue to deal with it to this day,” said Hermus Bettelyoun, organizer at NDN Collective. “It’s blatant, it’s dangerous, and it disrupts lives. Our city tries to address racism with band-aid solutions like cultural sensitivity training – yet the treatment of Indigenous people doesn’t change. Here we are in everyday life, being discriminated against because Indigenous people organizing to protect our community through deep rooted love is seen as a threat. When will it stop?”
Both the NDN Collective and American Indian Movement are known for their unapologetic advocacy work for Indigenous communities in Rapid City and the country, moreover.
“Discrimination is the effect of seeds of fear being perpetually planted – and incidents like this remind us that America was built on the villainization of Indigenous people,” said Sunny Red Bear, action organizer at NDN Collective. “The fact that no one outside Indigenous communities understands the American Indian Movement, or what it represents, is purposeful. While we’re battling a particular kind of racism here in South Dakota, discrimination against and erasure of Indigenous people extends across the country. We will not be silenced by those who want to maintain the status quo of white supremacy. We will keep fighting for our people to be known and respected.”
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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.