Protests Erupt After Hotel Owner Bans Native Americans: Video

Footage of a protest in Rapid City, South Dakota, after a woman banned Native American guests from her hotel is quickly going viral on TikTok.

A member of the Oglala Lakota named Eleanor Ferguson, or @lilnativething, posted footage of one protest to TikTok on Thursday where it received 1.4 million views and nearly 12,000 comments, many calling out the ban as a major human rights violation as well as racially discriminatory.

"Last week a hotel decided to ban Native Americans in Rapid City, South Dakota," the on-screen text read over video of hundreds of protesters in the streets.

The Grand Gateway Hotel owner, 76-year-old Connie Uhre, posted on Facebook on March 20 that due to a recent killing in which both individuals involved were Native American, her hotel will "no longer allow any Native American on property."

Uhre mentioned that the ban will exist for the on-site karaoke bar and also offered a "special rate" for non-Indigenous travelers.

Residents quickly responded to Uhre's decision, many stating that it is illegal to discriminate against guests based on race and that her ban directly went against the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.

The treaty between the U.S. government and the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota, and Arapaho established The Black Hills and various pieces of land in the western half of South Dakota as Indian Territory, including what is present-day Rapid City.

In the now-viral video taken on March 26, Ferguson explained that Uhre claimed they couldn't "tell the difference between a 'good native' or a 'bad native' so they decided to ban ALL natives from their business."

"I want to encourage everyone to learn about Native treaties and to perceive these treaties as supreme law of this country," Ferguson told Newsweek. "Uphold our treaties, learn about our treaties, and obey our treaties like you obey the U.S. law."

The video showed hundreds of protesters flying flags and carrying posters as they marched to the Grand Gateway Hotel to serve a treaty eviction notice.

"Tribal leaders, spiritual leaders, and warriors of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota came together to serve a treaty eviction notice to the hotel owners," the on-screen text read. "The Lakota, Nakota & Dakota have to consistently fight for basic human rights on their own ancestral territory without national attention."

A cease-and-desist was also left at the hotel by Oceti Sakowin leadership as protestors gathered outside.

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender quickly responded to Uhre's statements via Twitter, condemning her for her hotel ban and for blaming the mayor, police chief, and sheriff, among other public entities, as well as all Native Americans for the shooting on her property.

"Neither the shooting or Grand Gateway's response to it reflect our community values," he wrote.

On March 23, the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led organization based in Rapid City, filed a lawsuit against Uhre, her son, and the hotel for "explicit racial discrimination"

Newsweek reached out to Connie Uhre but did not receive comment in time for publication.

It's not the only time that the mistreatment of a Native American made the news.

Elementary school students are accused of forcibly cutting a Native American boy's hair in class.

And a Native American community in Minnesota is outraged over a social media conversation between high school students who allegedly exchanged racist comments and threats toward their Native classmates.

Late last year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order aimed at curbing human trafficking and crime on Native lands.

Protests after hotelier bans Native American guests
A hotelier in South Dakota sparked protests and a lawsuit after claiming her hotel was banning Native American guests. Courtesy of Eleanor Ferguson