Rapid City’s Human Relations Commission is a group that mediates discrimination complaints. But it’s been on pause since fall 2018, after the mayor said there wasn’t enough participation.
The HRC was recently rekindled through a partnership with Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors, a community group that works on improving relations between Native Americans and non-Natives.
HRC Coordinator Malcolm Chapman said he’s glad the group was revamped rather than abolished.
“There’s still discrimination that exists in public spaces and folks who feel discriminated against, especially if it’s real, they need avenues to have recourse and I think that’s what still presents itself, and we’re still working out the details of what that look like,” Chapman said. “But at some level, I think it’s still important to try to bring people together that have differences and figure out some sort of mediation. And if that doesn’t work then you move it along the legal channels.”
Chapman said the group will also host educational events to prevent discrimination in the first place. MOA has experience hosting community meetings on race relations, inequity and how local history can explain these issues.
“It’s my hope that we do so much of this proactive (work), and we make it so robust in the community and create venues where people can come together and learn together that we drive down, seriously, the need for some of the reactive. There will always be complaints of that nature, but less maybe,” Chapman said.
The HRC held its first event this week. It focused on resources and different approaches to helping the homeless and other vulnerable communities in Rapid City.
The Rapid City Police Department spoke about trauma-informed training, officers who provide resources to the homeless community and other programs. The Pennington County Sheriff’s Office and Health and Human Services discussed the Care Campus, which provides economic aid, substance abuse treatment and a safe place for intoxicated people to sleep.
The fire department spoke about its mobile medic unit, which serves the homeless community and works to connect people with primary care doctors so they don’t have to rely on emergency services.
The Oyate Health Center explained its COVID-19 response and how it provides care to unhoused and other vulnerable communities. NDN Collective discussed Creek Patrol, a group of volunteers who walk along Rapid Creek to make sure unhoused people are safe at night. It also shared information about Camp Mniluzahan, which ran a winter camp on tribal land near Rapid City that was open to anyone regardless of their sobriety status.
Nashiah Charge, a 19-year-old member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, grew up in Rapid City. Her family left because they couldn’t find affordable housing.
“Honestly what was making me wary of coming back was I didn’t think that (the city and community) were doing literally anything to not only help Native people but people in general,” she said.
But Charger says the HRC event and her recent visits to Rapid City are making her reconsider.
“It was just really nice seeing all the speakers and hearing all the questions and how many support services there are nowadays because back when I was living here there was not this many and we were not connected like this,” she said. “There wasn’t even conversations really going on when I lived here.”
Charger said she’s especially happy about Creek Patrol since she used to run into relatives struggling with housing and substance abuse who were sometimes harassed by police officers and others.