News & Politics

Executives Dump Beer on the Heads of Lakota Tribe Children and Face Almost No Punishment

Only one of the men involved in the incident is being charged for the assault.

Every sports fan knows that when you mix beer with racists you're making a powder keg ready to blow with the slightest excuse to ignite. 

Such was the case when a group of academic achievers from the Lakota tribe were rewarded for their good work with a trip to a minor league hockey match in Rapid City, South Dakota. The third through eighth grade students from the American Horse School were with their middle school teacher Consuelo Means when she overheard adults in the the executive suite above them asking some of the young girls where they were from. The teacher was understandably concerned about seemingly drunk strangers talking to little girls and asked that the men leave the children alone.

The men didn't listen, instead, they continued to talk to the children. When the team scored the men told the children they should shout later because they were “from the Rez.” The teacher immediately went to look for security to ask for help. When she returned, beer was dripping on her head. The men were dumping it on the children. She told other chaperones what was happening and they attempted to intervene. That's when the men allegedly shouted to the group to go back to "The Rez." 

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The children were silent on the drive back to the Pine Ridge Indian ​Reservation, one young girl crying.

"I didn’t think it was appropriate for [the men] to be talking to my students," Consuelo Means, the middle school teacher explained to ThinkProgress. "We’ve been there five years and nothing like that’s ever happened." While she completed an incident report for the stadium security, law enforcement was never contacted. 

South Dakota law considers any "malicious intimidation or harassment" a class 6 felony carrying a minimum punishment of two years in prison. Yet, only one of the men involved, Trace O’Connell, is being charged for the assault with "disorderly conduct," fined a mere $500, and will receive 30 days in jail.

According to superintendent Gloria Kitsopoulos, the chief of police, city attorney, and state attorney came to the school for a meeting with school officials and parents the discuss the results of the investigation. It didn't go well. 

"The first thing that really offended me was that they brought the communications guy from Rapid City with them and I gave him the microphone so he could talk to the people. He said, 'if anyone wants to use the talking stick when I’m done, let me know,'" Superintendent Kitsopoulos told ThinkProgress.

On the first day of the trial the accused didn't show. The jury selection contained no Native Americans, despite the high density of Native Americans in Rapid City. The Judge in the case received two requests for the charges to include hate crimes, assault, and/or child abuse. The requests were denied. 

Nearly 100 years after the Civilization Fund Act of 1819, which sought to "civilize" Native American youth, decedents of white settlers have somehow become the embodiment of what it means to be uncivilized. 

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