The Native American Law Students Association at the University of South Dakota gathered in the School of Law courtroom last week to send cards of encouragement to a group of Native American elementary students from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, following an incident last month in which the students were racially discriminated against by fans at a Rapid City Rush hockey game during a school-sponsored trip.
Tsyoslake House, a law student who spoke at the card gathering, was not planning on carrying his son or getting emotional when he was asked to speak. But he started to think about his own son’s future, and he could not help shedding a few tears.
“I could see him in seven years and the same thing happening to him,” House said.
House, alongside other NALSA members and USD students, said they want the elementary students to realize they have support statewide.
“You see this kind of stuff, the hate that was spewed towards them, and to have all races come together, all walks of life come together, just shows the stuff these people said is small minded,” House said.
The incident in Rapid City took place Jan. 25 and now is making national news.
Kyle Chase, president of USD’s NALSA and second-year law student, counted 30 people the event, but attendance was not the most important part of the afternoon. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, but he views racial conflicts differently.
“I’m also part German and part Norwegian, so my whole life I’ve had to see both sides of the coin,” Chase said. “It pains me to see when those two sides fight. People will say these are all racially motivated, which they are, but at the end of the day, with this particular event, it happened to kids.”
NALSA has collected cards for almost a month and sent the cards earlier this week. Writers were encouraged to include both a generic and a personal message.
“Part of what we’re obligated to do is respond,” American Indian Law professor Frank Pommersheim said. “It’s important for those young people to know that even across the state, probably in a town that none of them have been to, there are people who are in solidarity with them.”
NALSA is active with most Native American happenings in South Dakota. Chase said it’s his goal for the organization to represent more than Native Americans at USD.
“No matter what their color is, they’re children,” Chase said. “You don’t pour beer on a kid that’s 8 to 12 years old. You don’t pour beer on anybody. It hits close to me because I do represent both Native American background and a non-Native American background. Trying to make those two work together has been a goal of mine.”
(Photo: Tsyoslake House holds his son while speaking to the University of South Daktota’s Native American Law Students Association about racism in South Dakota Feb. 18. Nathan Ellenbecker / The Volante)