Joseph Zummo
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota.

To Sell or Not to Sell? Oglala Tables Decision on Newspaper Boycott

Stephanie Woodard

At an April 2 meeting, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council tabled a resolution to repeal its Rapid City Journal boycott, tribal spokesperson Kevin Steele told ICTMN.

Since February 24, the council has requested that Pine Ridge Indian Reservation businesses not sell the newspaper.

The council will take up the repeal measure next month, Steele said, explaining that the group postponed the vote “out of respect for the Pass Creek District,” which had first fielded the idea of a boycott.

The district did so in response to a RCJ front-page story by staff writer Seth Tupper, published January 31 and headlined, “Did Native students stand for National Anthem?”. The article elaborated on a disputed anonymous claim that Pine Ridge schoolchildren who were allegedly taunted with racial slurs and sprayed with beer during a Rapid City Rush hockey game had not stood for The Star-Spangled Banner.

The story caused widespread outrage, on Pine Ridge, in the article’s reader-comments section and nationally, including accusations that it was an attempt to “blame the victim.”

RELATED: Oglala Sioux Tribal Council Takes Aim at Newspaper, Attorney

In recent weeks, RCJ coverage has been more even-handed and even conciliatory, including an apology and an editorial condemning racism, according to Steele. “The Journal’s actions don’t change what happened to the children,” he said, “but now we are one step closer to positive change from the Native perspective.”

As a result of the improvements, the measure to rescind landed on the council’s April agenda, Steele said. However, without the Pass Creek representative who was most conversant with the district’s wishes, the matter could not move forward.

Reservation stores contacted by ICTMN said they were complying with the boycott request and would do so until further notice.

In its February 24 resolution, the council also forbade attorney Patrick Duffy from doing business on the reservation, including arguing cases in tribal court. He remains barred “as of now,” Steele said.

A prominent South Dakota lawyer, Duffy is best known as an attorney for the landmark Native voting-rights case Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine. However, Duffy is representing the man accused in the hockey-game incident, which was one reason the council banned him.

The council also mistakenly identified Duffy as an RCJ writer. Steele acknowledged that this was an error and said it occurred because the attorney was mistaken for his son, Padraic Duffy, a sportswriter at the newspaper.

Calls to the attorney’s office for a comment were not returned. “My father is usually not at a loss for words,” joked the younger Duffy.

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cojee madison's picture
cojee madison
Submitted by cojee madison on
I’m 69. Down here in Florida, I was well aware of the 1973 Wounded Knee occupation when it was occurring, and I supported it. Later I was told that those who surrendered (if that’s the proper word) were forced at gunpoint to salute the US flag. Since then, I have never saluted the flag, pledged allegiance, or stood for the national anthem. In my opinion, if even one person is forced to salute that flag, then it’s not worth saluting, no matter how many of us have died under it. They can spray me with beer or concrete blocks and I still won’t stand. No one has ever questioned my reasons. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t stand either, so maybe the bystanders think it’s just against my religion. Yeah, it sure is.