Hotel Owner Who Banned Native Americans Must Publicly Apologize

Under agreement with Justice Department, which sued her for racial discrimination
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 14, 2023 3:00 AM CST
Hotel Owner Who Banned Native Americans Is Punished
Hundreds march from Memorial Park to the Andrew W. Bogue Federal building on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Rapid City, S.D., where it was announced that a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the Grand Gateway Hotel for denying services to Native Americans.   (Matt Gade/Rapid City Journal via AP)

A South Dakota woman who said she would ban Native Americans from her hotel cannot manage the establishment for four years and must publicly apologize under agreement with the US Justice Department, the AP reports. The federal agency announced the apology last week as part of a consent decree with owners of Rapid City's Grand Gateway Hotel. Hotel co-owner Connie Uhre in March 2022 posted on social media that she would no longer allow American Indians on the property because of a fatal shooting at the hotel involving two teenagers who police said were Native American. "We will no long(er) allow any Native American(s) on (our) property," Uhre wrote in a Facebook post, while offering a "very special" hotel rate to travelers and ranchers.

Members of the Indigenous-led activist group NDN Collective were denied hotel rooms shortly after Uhre's posts. After months of boycotts and protests against the hotel and its owners, the Justice Department stepped in and sued, alleging racial discrimination against American Indians. In a statement announcing the consent decree, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke described Uhre's behavior as "hateful," saying it "invokes a long and painful history of negative stereotypes against and exclusion of the Native American community."

"We applaud the Tribal elders, local officials, and advocates who took a stand against this shameful conduct," Clarke said. "Our settlement should send a message to public establishments across the country that their doors must be open to all communities regardless of race." The hotel shut down for about a month because of the protests. Uhre was arrested May 31, 2022, accused of spraying a cleaning product at NDN Collective demonstrators outside the hotel. As part of the consent decree, which still needs approval from a US District Court judge, the company must apologize for Uhre's posts in letters to tribal leaders and in newspapers throughout South Dakota.

(More South Dakota stories.)

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