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Complaint: Racist Rapid City Hoteliers Actually Denied Service to and Ejected Indian Customers

Nick and Connie Uhre didn’t just threaten to ban Indians from their Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge in Rapid City. According to the amended complaint that the NDN Collective and the group’s racial equity director Sunny Red Bear filed Thursday in federal court in Rapid City, the Grand Gateway Hotel actually refused to rent a room to Red bear and another Native American woman:

22. On March 21, 2022, Plaintiff Sunny Red Bear entered the Grand Gateway Hotel with another Native American woman. The two women tried to rent a room at the hotel.

23. After initially beginning to process the rental and providing a price quote, a hotel employee refused to rent a room to them, claiming that the hotel had a policy that it did not rent rooms to people with “local” identification. This was mere pretext to discriminate against Ms. Red Bear based on her race.

24. The hotel employee first claimed that this local identification policy was an actual policy. Then she reversed herself, claiming there was not a formal policy but that this was an effort to implement and/or deal with the fallout from Connie Uhre’s social media posts. On information and belief, no written policy existed, and no such policy was provided to Ms. Red Bear.

25. The hotel employee also did not allow the other woman to rent the room under her name using her identification.

26. As a direct result of Connie Uhre’s decision, announced on social media, to exclude Native Americans from her businesses, Ms. Red Bear was discriminated against in violation of federal law. On information and belief, Nicholas Uhre has also endorsed and enforced this policy [Brendan V. Johnson, Amended Complaint, NDN Collective and Sunny Red Bear v. Retsel Corporation, Connie Uhre, and Nicholas Uhre, U.S. District Court of South Dakota, Western Division, 2022.03.24].

Evidently not smart enough to smell a lawsuit coming, Grand Gateway staff denied more Indians rooms the next day, and Nick Uhre himself appears to have ejected Indians from his hotel:

30. On March 22, 2022, representatives of NDN Collective entered the Grand Gateway Hotel to reserve five rooms on behalf of the organization.

31. NDN Collective was told that they could not rent rooms due to some “issues” that the hotel had.

32. When NDN Collective stated that Expedia showed rooms available, the front desk employee confirmed that rooms were, in fact, available but the hotel would not rent those available rooms to NDN Collective.

33. At no point did the NDN Collective representative present a form of identification, local or otherwise.

34. The NDN Collective representative asked to speak to a manager. At all times, the interaction with the front desk employee was respectful and polite.

35. Immediately thereafter, an individual believed to be Nicholas Uhre approached the NDN Collective representatives and forcefully demanded that they leave the hotel. He then followed them out of the hotel. The representatives of NDN Collective were intimidated by Nicholas Uhre’s threatening demeanor [Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24].

To underscore the intimidation Natives may experience at the Grand Gateway, plaintiffs amended their complaint Thursday to include this statement, with a photo I first saw posted Twitter by Joye Braun on Wednesday, alleging that after these two unsuccessful attempts by Indian customers to rent rooms at the Grand Gateway, the hotel had stationed guards with at least one rifle in the lobby:

20. On information and belief, by the afternoon of March 23, 2022, the Grand Gateway Hotel had stationed guards, at least one of whom had an assault rifle, in the lobby of the hotel:

Photo included in Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24.
Photo included in Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24.

21. The presence of guards and automatic weapons was intended to, and did, further intimidate and exclude Native Americans, including the Plaintiffs here [Amended Complaint, 2022.03.24].

The plaintiffs allege violation of 42 USC §1981, which recognizes the right of “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States… in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts….” They ask the court to certify this matter as a class action on behalf of the thousands of Native Americans to whom the Uhres are denying service; award compensatory, general, special, and punitive damages to each plaintiff; enjoin any unlawful anti-Indian policy practiced by the defendants; and deploy any other judicial butt-kicking the court deems appropriate.

29 Comments

  1. larry kurtz 2022-03-25 07:10

    Right to life? Not if you’re non-white or nonconforming in South Dakota. $20 says the money is just pouring into the defense fund for these business operators. It’s impossible not to notice that the white people who influence the South Dakota Republican Party continue to brainwash their own kids into cancelling culture, selling tyranny and preaching exclusivity to the voting populace. While incidents like the one at Aberdeen Central and at Sturgis Brown High School are hardly uncommon in South Dakota white nationalist incitements have intensified because of Trump’s history of sexual violence, hateful lies and propaganda. South Dakota’s Republican governor spins the hate wheel every day because Republican is not just another word for earth hater; it’s another word for Nazi.

  2. Richard Schriever 2022-03-25 07:37

    FWIW, after listening to the lecture of a former director of commercial vehicle enforcement for the state of Minnesota yesterday, on the common practices of employers looking to hire folks, I can be pretty sure that our current governess could NEVER get a job driving any commercial or other company vehicle and never pass the background check needed to acquire a school bus driving license in any state in the union. That lecturer cited a history of traffic violations and other examples of a disregard for the law as disqualifying for employment in positions of responsibility.

  3. AmyB 2022-03-25 08:32

    It bothers me that more people feel comfortable enough to post things like that online. A couple months ago my daughter (she is Native) received an email from someone she worked with that felt comfortable enough to say disgusting and racist things to her AND send it to their boss. Thank god her employer dealt with it and that person was gone in a day or two. Things like this are exactly why those ‘uncomfortable’ things need to be talked about….despite the governor’s effort to ban them.

  4. mike from iowa 2022-03-25 08:54

    What’s the betting line the magats appeal any court losses to the Scotus as a religious free dumb complaint?

  5. Donald Pay 2022-03-25 09:12

    AmyB is correct. We need to address these issues. I was heartened that your Mayor was willing to take on this issue. He’s probably going to get some blowback from the white supremacy crowd, but he did the right thing. It’s now going to be decided in court. There are laws that govern this sort of discrimination. If CRT is correct, those laws won’t matter. They won’t be enforced, or the Uhre’s will, at most, be slapped on the wrist. Is racism is institutional? Does racism infect the institutions that are supposed to uphold those laws, as well as the hoteliers who are standing in the doorway to keep Indians out? We will see. This will be an interesting test of CRT, won’t it?

    On less serious topic, I think the Uhre’s need to be sued for that carpet. That would drive any self-respecting aesthete away..

  6. jad 2022-03-25 09:17

    I have not read any comments from gov NOem on this situation. She is always willing to offer her opinion in other matters so why not here

  7. John 2022-03-25 10:02

    Rest assured that snowjob noem’s only concern is whether and how much the racism will impact tourism.
    Perhaps its time, again, for a boycott South Dakota and the motorcycle rally movement.

  8. Eve Fisher 2022-03-25 13:00

    I think the Uhres are the textbook case for why South Dakotans, and all Americans, need history that tells the truth about racism in this country.

  9. Donald Pay 2022-03-25 13:44

    If Critical Race Theory has correctly assessed American culture, one would expect Nicholas Urhe to attempt to use the levers of power that white people have in this country to minimize his culpability in this matter. Urhe reaching out to a government official (Governor Noem) to remove a person from office who is calling out illegal behavior of white people against Indians makes sense from the perspective of Critical Race Theory. Urhe is demonstrating his understanding of how institutional racism works, just by reaching out to Noem in this manner. He has correctly perceived how Critical Race Theory predicts people to act, and he is acting that way. Whether or not Noem, who represents an institution of government, engages on this issue in some manner that gives Urhe some semblance of support, this has already shown Critical Race Theory to be correct. The question Noem has to answer is whether she further proves Critical Race Theory true. Her statements and actions may not necessarily have to go as far as Urhe suggests, but if she puts out some statement that suggests support for his discriminatory behavior, or acts in some way that supports it, she has done exactly what Critical Race Theory would predict. It doesn’t matter whether Noem herself is racist. What matters is that racial discrimination gets supported in some way by the head of an institution. Any bets on how she will act?

  10. M 2022-03-25 13:56

    You explained that very well Donald Pay. Because Noem understands very little, I’m betting she will side with the Urhes, claiming they have the right to refuse service to whomever they want. Then she will go on Fox, hold political fund raisers and claim that she is right and Native Americans are using CRT to cancel culture in SD.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2022-03-25 16:49

    The Governor’s pro business, ultra radical approach to the “rights” of business people to control their property and the sanctity of their business decisions are well known. The civil rights of citizens are secondary to the right of the ownership quotient of our society to manage their property to create the optimum profit. When Native people get in the way, they will be quashed, in her view. The majority of the legislature is of the same view. Only the courts can intervene and hopefully they will. Basic human dignity is at risk here.

  12. DaveFN 2022-03-26 13:21

    “Uhre also said in her post that every time they call the police for a problem, the first thing police ask about is race.

    Medina said dispatch typically asks that to help law enforcement positively identify the right subject or suspect to narrow down possible descriptors. He said it helps divert officers to the appropriate person and serves no other purpose than to direct officers to the right person or place.”

    So, the “practical” approach to distinguishing a possible suspect (“divert officers to the appropriate person”) if one works for the police department is to inquire as to the race of the individual. What, however, would be the practice in a single-race community (or, say, highly mixed race of individuals not distinguishable by skin color alone) to distinguish a possible suspect, since race is not a distinguishing factor?

    But sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.

    The “practical” approach for the hotelier under discussion is to ban a particular race from the premises (the old ‘right to refuse service to anyone’) owing to violence committed by a member of the particular race disturbing the premises. What, however, would be the practice of a hotelier were the violence committed by a member of in a single-race community (or in a highly mixed race of individuals not distinguishable by skin color alone)?

    What is currently the most “practical” things to do in one case is not practical in the other. One might say that both “practical” approaches are examples of racism at work.

  13. mike from iowa 2022-03-26 14:09

    Sorry if this is off topic, but you can watch any number of cop videos where the cops stop the first POC they see and claim he/she matches the supspect’s description.

  14. jerry 2022-03-26 17:10

    DaveFN, that is why there is a lawsuit to answer your question. I look for that business to be sold fairly soon.

  15. John Dale 2022-03-26 21:48

    This is a continuation of law-fare that is tearing our country apart.

    Do we have too many lawyers?

    Or not enough?

  16. DaveFN 2022-03-26 22:12

    jerry

    You appear to miss any point I made.

    If law enforcement can argue from the general ( “was the individual perp Native American”?) to the particular (“who is the particular individual”?), what’s wrong with a hotelier arguing from a particular (who happens to be an individual member of a given race), to the exclusion of that general (the exclusion of all members of said race) in the interest of peace and quiet at his/her establishment?

    Both logics as they appeal to the “practical” experience and solutions of the two parties in accordance with their respective experience be it as law enforcement or as hoteliers fail to rise to what would be the better standard for both, namely, norming their behaviors against a criterion in which race was not and could not possibly be considered a distinguishing local nor universal factor as I’ve previously specified above, in which latter case neither law enforcement nor hoteliers would have recourse to their lesser, “practical” criteria which, in accordance with their respective “common sense” contexts and separate experiences, default to a lower rather than to a higher if not to the highest standard of behaviors that would guide them. That highest standard would be one irrespective of race.

  17. jerry 2022-03-27 04:22

    Resubmitted to the point. “DaveFN, that is why there is a lawsuit to answer your question. I look for that business to be sold fairly soon.”

    Please reread the above very slowly.

  18. Mark Anderson 2022-03-27 18:05

    It’s simple, they will now lose so much money in the court case they lose their motel and bar. Can’t wait. Think about that John Dale or are there too many laws for you?

  19. grudznick 2022-03-27 18:37

    These fellows, Mr. Anderson, have many motels. Bedbug ridden all.

  20. DaveFN 2022-03-29 15:41

    jerry

    I fail–even upon a very slow reading–to understand how your answer “That is why there is a lawsuit…” in any way answers my question “What would be the practice..?” in regard to the question I ask, namely, that there must surely be alternative procedures to profile criminals that do not include recourse to racial terms. (My interest is not in filing a lawsuit but in preventing one. Perhaps we differ in that as well)

    Furthermore—if I must spell it out—law enforcement, by its dispatchers resorting to racial terms are promoting in their very praxis (the latter word implying both “practice” and what is “practical” to do–in their limited estimation at least) are effectively mobilizing racism as a means to justify the noble end of criminal identification.

    The hotelier presumably has similar noble ends in mind, namely, to ensure safety within his/her premises, but the means–stereotyping–do not justify that end.

    Fundamentally, racial means of any kind do not justify noble ends in either case.

    I also question the “practice” of RCPD publicly promulgating the rationale in press releases that law enforcement is justified in what its dispatchers are so blindly doing by their use of racial discourse when there must surely be alternative ways for criminal identification. If law enforcement can use racial means to their ends, why can’t the general public?

    (See also the Otto case of 2015 and the rather lame attorney defense that “you can’t profile what you can’t see” since the car being tailed had tinted windows; https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/05/us/racial-profiling-native-americans-south-dakota/index.html ) as though racial bias could not be projected onto what one could see when what one could not see in fact mobilized what was evidently pre-existing racial bias)

    Race, per se, does NOT exist according to science in any sense when it comes to human genetic studies. A recourse to racial terms/stereotypes by law enforcement, hoteliers, or any one else is effectively a way to realize—to make real—the scientifically non-existent concept of race. Most agree that “race” is not to be thus realized and reified in its various racial avatars, but de-realized and de-reified.

  21. jerry 2022-03-29 15:47

    Maybe have someone who knows English read it for you….very slowly.

  22. jerry 2022-03-29 15:56

    BTW, is the place open for business now?? Hmmm, I think they know how to read or better yet, they now have someone who does know how to read… very slowly, while charging them for that read. Should’ve been reading in the first place, like history or CRT.

    We shall see how this plays in the courtroom, federal I believe. Should be a whopper. Lookin forward to seeing racism outed.

  23. bearcreekbat 2022-03-29 17:27

    DaveFN, Let me try to address your query:

    If law enforcement can argue from the general ( “was the individual perp Native American”?) to the particular (“who is the particular individual”?), what’s wrong with a hotelier arguing from a particular (who happens to be an individual member of a given race), to the exclusion of that general (the exclusion of all members of said race) in the interest of peace and quiet at his/her establishment?

    Logically the two arguments and inferences are substantively different enough to render the police inference helpful while the hotelier’s inference is useless.

    The police inference is based upon determining whether the physical appearance of the perp appeared to the witness to be distinguishable from the physical appearance of individuals in particular groups. To the extent that race is an artificial distinction, it is a distinction based primarily on physical appearance. Most folks perceive, for example, a recognizable difference in the appearance of many, but of course not all, individuals that fall roughly in the categories of black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, etc. When the police ask “was the individual perp Native American” the question only seeks to determine how the witness perceived the appearance of the perp.

    The hotelier inference from the particular to the general, however, is based on a different and false premise, namely that race or heritage is the causal factor for misconduct. The hotelier assumes it is Native American heritage that causes bad behavior and seek to attribute that particular characteristic to enough Native Americans to justify excluding all Native Americans.

    So the difference is that: (A) the police do not assume anything about the inherent nature or behavior of Native Americans. They only seek accurate information that might help identify a perp, which seems no different that asking about height, weight, hair color, tattoos, and other potentially distinguishing characteristics; while (B) the hotelier’s inquiry is based on inaccurate and unsupportable assumptions or stereotypes about the inherent nature and behavior of most Native Americans.

    Anyhow, that seems to me to be a rather obvious and critical difference between an inference to the particular from the general, and an inference to the general from the particular under these particular circumstances.

  24. Whitless 2022-03-29 18:36

    The civil rights act applies to motels and hotels. Owners cannot discriminate based upon race. The U.S. Supreme Court addressed this issue decades ago, and the decision remains valid law. Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/379/241

  25. grudznick 2022-03-29 19:26

    This younger fellow, Mr. Nick (not Nicholas), seems to be able to read.
    Yet, he plans to wait the Uhrest out. Wait until the mobs die down, the disgruntlement is lost in the sands of time.

    I sure hope these marchers in the mobs don’t let that happen. The Perkins there may be a bit of a casualty of friendly fire, but golly those motels need to get schooled. By the way, did you fellows know those Uhre places are motels, not hotels. Hotels are fancy. Bedbug joints like that are motels. And that whole row of motels is Uhreville.

  26. All Mammal 2022-03-30 03:35

    I have always thought it unhelpful to subjectively describe a stranger in an emergency using race. I know white people who would describe a Rose Budder as Native, while an Oglala tribal member might describe the same individual as black. The person on the other end will then relay that information to a first responder who speeds right past the subject because he considers the person not of any interest because he only saw the whiteness below his sock tan line… and in reality, its my bro we consider Neapolitan because he has a red neck, brown arms, and white feet.

    I suggest a pragmatic melanin complexion scale: 1)Black. As black as the blackest skin you’ve ever seen.
    2)Dark. Black skin like Aborigines and people from regions in India and other equatorial latitudes.
    3)Brown. Almost any race has people who can be considered a 3. Could be a black person, Persians, Natives, Eastern Europeans, Islanders, etc.
    4)Not a whole lot of pigment going on, but can be any race. Asian, European, bi, tri, multi-racial.
    5)White. Like needs a bonnet and sun protection to get near the good earth’s surface.

    Not only would a number scale be much more objective and therefore provide a helpful description, it also eliminates racial discrepancies. No matter what, mislabeling a person based on uninformed perceptions is going to create animosity. Try calling a Black Russian a Spanish Moor. No, don’t. I hope calling a person a 3 when they consider themselves a 4 doesn’t obscure the message beyond redemption. One would know to consider allowances either way. I truly bring up this concept as a more accurate and concise solution to positively identify a person through a chain of communication. And if numbering skin tones like the makeup industry offends anybody, let me know and we can correct or improve or edit however you feel. My goal is to let these kids grow up only reading about racism in history books and Mark Twain stories.

  27. jerry 2022-03-30 04:33

    bcb, along with Whitless, prove the need for CRT for all without a doubt. bcb details to DaveFN how the law enforcement works, in very readable simple explanations. Speaking of simple explanations “Uhreville” from Mr. grudznick

    Whitless posts the Supreme Court’s work on Civil Rights since 1866, no less. That’s something that I wasn’t aware of how long these laws have been on the books. CRT would’ve given me that historical information.

    “Congress first evidenced its interest in civil rights legislation in the Civil Rights or Enforcement Act of April 9, 1866.
    2 There followed four Acts,
    3 with a fifth, the Civil Rights Act of March 1, 1875,
    4 culminating the series. In 1883 this Court struck down the public accommodations sections of the 1875 Act in the Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S.Ct. 18, 27 L.Ed. 835. No major legislation in this field had been enacted by Congress for 82 years when the Civil Rights Act of 1957
    5 became law. It was followed by the Civil Rights Act of 1960.
    6 Three years later, on June 19, 1963, the late President Kennedy called for civil rights legislation in a a message to Congress to which he attached a proposed bill. Its stated purpose was to promote the general welfare by eliminating discrimination based on race, color, religion, or national origin in * * * public accommodations through the exercise by Congress of the powers conferred upon it * * * to enforce the provisions of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, to regulate commerce among the several States, and to make laws necessary and proper to execute the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution.’ H.R.Doc.No. 124, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., at 14.”

    Wow, of course DaveFN, that kinda is the gist of the civil rights lawsuit, I would guess. Now, let’s see how the courts view the litigation.

  28. Craig M Miller 2022-03-30 07:32

    Sometimes it is helpful to think before you speak…or act. Will Smith wasn’t thinking Sunday night. Connie Uhre wasn’t thinking when she said she couldn’t tell the difference between a “good” Native American and a “bad” one. Apparently, however, she is prescient enough to recognize a bad white person when she sees one. Tell us, Connie, your secret.

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