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South Dakota Hotel Ordered to Apologize to Native Americans for ‘Racist’ Ban

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Posted on: November 10, 2023, 12:10h. 

Last updated on: November 10, 2023, 12:34h.

The owners of a South Dakota hotel-casino that banned Native Americans from the premises must publicly apologize to tribal organizations in the state and throughout the Great Plains region. This is part of a settlement to resolve a DOJ lawsuit that accused the Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Grand Gateway Hotel Connie Uhr, South Dakota
Take the Pledge: Connie Uhre, pictured, was found guilty of two counts of common assault for attacking protestors with a well-known brand of dust spray. (Image: NDN Collective)

Meanwhile, Connie Uhre, the 75-year-old owner who issued the racist policy, will be banned from serving as a director of the company and from exercising any management duties at the hotel for four years.

In March 2022, Uhre wrote in a Facebook post that she could no longer “allow a Native American to enter our business, including Cheers,” the casino sports bar that offers video lottery terminals (VLTs).

On the same day her son, Nicholas Uhre sent an email with a similar tone, complaining “We don’t know the bad ones from the nice natives, so we have to say no to them,” according to court documents.

Fatal Shooting

These announcements came a day after a shooting in one of the hotel rooms. Both the suspect in the crime, Quincy Bear Robe, and the victim, Myron Blaine Pourier Jr., were Native American.

Pourier died in the hospital two weeks after the shooting, and in late October this year, Bear Robe pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. He is awaiting sentencing.

The hotel’s policy caused uproar, leading to several civil rights lawsuits and a spate of demonstrations by Native American groups and their supporters.

Members of one such group, NDN Collective, attempted to book rooms at the hotel to test the policy and confirmed that they were refused.

Earlier this month, Connie Uhre was found guilty of two counts of common assault for spraying protestors in the face with a bottle of Pledge dust spray.

The Grand Gateway closed at the height of the controversy but has since reopened.

‘Naked Animus’

“The defendants’ conduct in this case was egregious, motivated by naked animus, and amounted to an outright ban on Native American customers seeking access to a public establishment,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “This kind of hateful conduct invokes a long and painful history of negative stereotypes against and exclusion of the Native American community,” she added.

Clarke praised the tribal elders, local officials, and Native American groups who took a stand against the hotel’s “shameful conduct.” She said the settlement would send a message to businesses across the US that “doors must be open to all communities regardless of race.”

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