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City committee to consider resolution calling for land swap with Native community
  • Updated

A Rapid City committee will consider Wednesday a resolution calling for the city to work with the Native American community on a land swap, cultural center and funding mechanisms while addressing what researchers say are three illegal parcels on the old Indian Boarding School land.

The land swap could prevent the federal government taking over the parcels occupied by Monument Health’s Behavioral Health Center, the Westside Village senior living community, and the Canyon Lake Activity Center, according to the resolution before the Legal and Finance Committee. The takeover could happen due to a 1948 law that outlined how the 1,200-acres of old boarding school land could be used.

Public record 

The 1948 federal law regulating use of the old Rapid City Indian Boarding School lands.

But “all parties prefer a creative solution rooted in a land exchange that could allow the current occupants of (the parcels) to remain on that land,” the resolution says. The swap would also address inequities and “honor 70 years of Native community requests for use of the lands” after none of it went to them.

The idea for a “creative solution” was mentioned in a July 2017 letter by the Bureau of Indian Affairs — which owned the old boarding school land — sent to the Rapid City mayor, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools, and the leaders of the Oglala, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes.

The letter said the three parcels deeded to the Rapid City government and school district but being used by the three nonprofits could be returned to agency since “they are no longer being utilized for the deeded purpose.”

DOI/BIA letter

If the resolution passes, the council and Mayor Steve Allender will work with the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands Project and greater Native American community over the next six months to create a plan that entails land exchanges and financial investments equal to $20 million. That number represents the value the land and buildings of the three parcels. 

Allender and the council would ask the school district, hospital, senior living community and activity center for help securing financial and other assistance related to the land exchange. The plan would be sent to the BIA so it could approve the exchange and allow the three nonprofits to receive clean property titles.

The plan will also focus on creating a Rapid City Native American community center and development corporation. The corporation would fund the community center so it doesn’t have to rely on grants or government money.

The resolution was introduced by the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands Project, a group of volunteers who have researched and educated the public about the children who died at the school and what happened to the property. The group is now focused on remembering and rectifying past harms by fundraising for a memorial park and tackling the land issue.

The group asked community members between 2017 and 2019 how they’d like to address the land issue, what they would want the land to be used for, and how they would fund the project, the resolution says. Seventy-six percent of polled community members listed a community center as their first or second choice and said it should be funded by a corporation that generates revenue through housing, a hotel and convention center, and Native American tourism, arts or a museum.

The history

Most of the five-page resolution focuses on the history uncovered by the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands Project:

The resolution

The boarding school was operated by the BIA from 1898 to 1933 on land that now consists of the Sioux San/Oyate Health Center campus and surrounding areas in west Rapid.

Most students were Lakota who came from the Pine Ridge, Rosebud and Cheyenne River reservations. Once there, they were forced to assimilate to white culture and not allowed to practice their own.

Many families moved to Rapid City to be near their children, and their descendants now make up the city's current Native American population. 

The Rapid City government, school district, chamber of commerce, churches and the National Guard lobbied Congress for the 1,200 acres after the school closed. Congress passed the 1948 law that says the land could be sold to churches, used for "needy Indians," or given to the city, school district and National Guard. None of the land went to Native Americans until 2017.

The land that went to the city, school and Guard are subject to a reversion clause that says the land must be returned to the BIA when it was no longer being used for city, educational or Guard purposes.

Despite the law, the school district received a parcel in 1964 and transferred it to the activity center in 2005 via a quit claim deed. Rapid City obtained two parcels in 1949 that were eventually turned over to Monument Health and Clarkson Health, which runs Westside Village. The resolution does not say how or when the city land was transferred.

These three parcels could be returned to the BIA and made into a Native American community center, assisted living facility and health treatment facility but Monument Health, Clarkson Health and the activity center say this “would cause them great expense and inconvenience.”

The only alternative to the reversion clause would be to exchange the boarding school lands for other land that would be used for the Native American community.

All parties now prefer this “creative solution” over reverting the land to the BIA, the resolution says.

The Legal and Finance committee will meet at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. If the resolution is approved it will be heard before the City Council on Nov. 2. 

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Mayor Allender announces mask mandate in city facilities
  • Updated

City staff and visitors to Rapid City municipal buildings will be required to wear face masks as active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb, Mayor Steve Allender announced at a press conference Monday.

"For eight months now we have been monitoring and responding to the impacts of the COVID pandemic on our community as well as on city operations," he said. "The pandemic is progressing and present circumstances demand we take a more aggressive approach to protecting our customers and employees at this time."

The mayor said all visitors to city-owned buildings will be required to wear a mask. If the person does not have one, the city will provide one. Allender said in-person services will be refused to anyone refusing to wear a mask and there will be no exceptions to the mask mandate, including those who claim a medical exemption.

"There's always the talk of a medical exemption, but this is not covered under ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)," Allender said. "It would be hard for us to verify a medical exemption. If you are one of those individuals that your doctor has advised you that the risks of wearing a mask are greater than not wearing a mask in a pandemic, then I would say it would be great for you to find someone to come to City Hall for you."

Allender said most city functions, like making payments or submitting planning documents for permits, can be done online. The mayor said the public can contact the respective departments via phone for questions or for assistance with the city's website.

In general, the mask mandate applies to all city-owned facilities, including City Hall and the Public Safety Building. However, Allender said some city-owned facilities like the Rapid City Public Library, Rapid City Regional Airport and the civic center are governed by their own board of directors — many of which already require face masks.

The Rapid City Public Library requires mouth and nose coverings for people ages 2 and over.

Airport Assistant Director Toni Broom said the airport previously encouraged everyone to wear masks, but in light of the new mandate for city-owned facilities, all airport staff, vendor employees, passengers and visitors will be required to wear masks.

"Up until today, we strongly suggested wearing masks. We have changed the policy to align with the new requirement," Broom said. "We have changed the signs throughout the airport terminal, the on-screen flight displays and make announcements that face masks are required. We will provide face masks to anyone who does not have one on."

The Civic Center does not have a mask mandate for visitors unless the event organizer requires them. Civic Center Advertising Strategist Heather Josnoch said the Civic Center Board of Directors may change that.

"We are governed by an independent board, so we are not mandating masks at this time," Josnoch said. "Our employees are required to wear masks when they are out of their work space and in the building, but for now we are strongly encouraging the public to wear masks and not mandating them. The board may change that in future."

Allender said city recreational facilities like the Roosevelt Swim Center will not require people to wear masks while swimming. However, masks will be required for everyone when not in the water.

Allender said all city staff who work with the public will be required to wear face masks as well. The requirement extends to officers with the Rapid City Police Department, the fire department and paramedics, with few exceptions, the mayor said.

"Each department, such as law enforcement and paramedics, have to make their own assessment of the circumstance," Allender said. "They do have circumstances  where they will need to take a mask off in order to communicate effectively with someone. I will leave that up to the discretion of the department directors — the police chief and fire chief. Generally speaking, though, this mask mandate goes for all city employees and the fine detail exceptions have to be worked out by department heads."

Among the measures announced include:

City Council meetings

Citizens attending council and committee meetings will be required to wear masks. Due to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, seating remains extremely limited in Council Chambers. The moving or adding of chairs in Council Chambers will not be allowed.

The council dais will now include plexiglass dividers and council members are encouraged to wear masks walking to and from their seat on the dais and are encouraged to wear masks during council and committee meetings.

Phone/e-mail/online options

As recommended last spring, citizens are encouraged to use online and phone options to conduct business with City Hall and city departments to minimize personal visits to city facilities.

The city advises residents to consider automatic payment of their utility bills and to pay parking tickets online as ways to minimize visits to City Hall. In addition, residents with questions regarding building permits and other city policies should consider calling or e-mailing the individual city department.

Utility bills

Residents are encouraged to use online automatic payment of utility bills by visiting and clicking on Citizen Self Service on the left hand side for utility bills or by using the city's utility billing "Sure-Pay" system. Call 394-4125 or visit the Water Division's page on the city's website at If you visit the self-service portal, you will need to know your account number and customer number to register, both of which can be found on your most recent utility bill.

In addition, residents are encouraged to mail in their payment or use the night drop box on the west side of the building, which is available any time of the day.

Parking tickets

Residents are encouraged to pay parking tickets online by visiting the 'How To' section at or


If you have questions regarding building permits or air quality permits, contact the city's Community Development Department at 394-4120. Customers can also e-mail questions and plan information to Staff can also work with customers for online submittal of plans.

Development applications

If you have questions regarding development applications, contact the city’s Community Development Department at 394-4120. Customers can also e-mail questions to Staff can also work with customers for online submittal of preliminary applications.

Online public comments

City officials remind the public they can submit online comments for city meetings. In April, the city developed an online public comment form to be accessed at The link is also added to the respective council and committee agenda pages and the COVID-19 updates at Online comments will be included as part of the official meeting record. Members of the public attending the sessions in person can still submit a paper comment form prior to the start of the session.

The public is advised to submit comments by the following deadlines:

  • City Council, noon the day of the meeting
  • Legal and Finance Committee, 8 a.m. the day of the meeting
  • Public Works Committee, 8 a.m. the day of the meeting
  • Planning Commission/Zoning Board of Adjustment, 3:30 p.m. the day before the meeting

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Early voting in Pennington County far outpacing 2016 presidential election
  • Updated

The number of Pennington County residents voting early in the 2020 election has far surpassed 2016 totals with a week until Election Day on Nov. 3.

In the 2016 presidential election, 19,523 votes were cast early in the county. So far this year, 28,900 votes have been cast.

County Auditor Cindy Mohler said Monday she hopes her office will finish counting votes by the regular time on Election Day, which is around 11 p.m.

“If all goes well,” she said. “Things can happen, machines break down, have glitches. I think we’ll be fairly normal as far as when things get done.”

The office has sent out 23,100 absentee ballots as of Monday morning and received 18,700, with 10,200 having voted at the auditor’s office.

Mohler said when people come to vote either at the auditor’s office or at the polls on Election Day, they should bring a photo ID with them. If a voter forgets an ID, they can sign a Personal ID Affidavit.

Mohler also said she has plenty of volunteers ready to work at the polls on Nov. 3.

“Right now, people keep talking about being low on workers, but we’ve had more people volunteer this year than we’ve ever had,” she said. 

Mohler said she has 160 volunteers, compared to the usual 120. She said the county is trying to put a couple of extra people at each location and have one person sanitize voting stations.

Polling locations will not require voters to wear masks, although signs will ask them to observe six feet of social distance.

“We cannot require someone to wear a mask because we can’t take away their right to vote by saying wear a mask,” Mohler said. “It’s up to the people whether they want to wear a mask or not.”

The deadline to register to vote was Oct. 19, which was also the first day to vote in the Rapid City Ward 1 special election to fill a council seat. The candidates are Tessa LaHaie and former councilor Ron Weifenbach. Mohler said there will be a separate table to vote in the special election in Ward 1 and that there will be a separate ballot.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. To check for voter registration information, polling place location and the ballot, visit the Secretary of State’s website.

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Number of active COVID-19 cases in state has doubled in two weeks to 11,061
  • Updated

The number of active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in South Dakota continues to increase, according to the daily report from the Department of Health.

The state reported 538 new infections Monday on 1,164 people tested. Those new cases pushed the total number of positive tests to 39,741 and the number of active cases to a record number of 11,061, which is 316 higher than Sunday's report and an increase of 2,673 in a week. The number of active cases has more than doubled in two weeks from the Oct. 12 report that showed only 5,272 active cases in the state.

The number of people being treated in hospitals across the state increased by 11 to 377. There are 96 patients being treated in Black Hills region hospitals with 13 of those in intensive care and eight requiring a ventilator. 

No new deaths were reported Monday. So far, 375 South Dakotans have died from COVID-19, according to the Department of Health.

Pennington County reported 47 positive tests on 104 results. That brings the county's total to 4,183 and the number of active cases increased to 1,078. Oglala-Lakota County reported 23 new infections and Lawrence County had 12 new cases. Meade County had six positive tests and Butte County reported five. There were three in Custer County and two in Fall River County.

Bon Homme County led the state with 140 new cases on Monday. Minnehaha County reported 81 positive tests and there were 29 in Lincoln County. Brown County had 19 new cases and there were 16 in Davison County. Codington County had 13 new infections and there were 11 each in Beadle and Yankton counties. There were 10 new infections each in Hughes and Brookings counties and six each in Charles Mix, Spink and Union counties. There were five new cases each in Hand, Lake, Brule and Turner counties and four each in Clay, Corson, Hamlin, Jackson, Lyman and Moody counties. Gregory, Hanson, Hutchinson, McCook and Roberts counties each had three new cases and there were two each in McPherson, Sanborn and Todd counties. Bennett, Day, Douglas, Faulk, Haakon, Hyde, Marshall, Mellette, Tripp and Walworth counties each reported one positive test.

Of the 538 new cases, 47 were in children under 19 and 108 were in their 20s. Forty-seven infections were reported in patients over 70.

There were 581 new cases in South Dakota's K-12 schools this week. In the state’s schools, there have been 3,558 COVID-19 cases among 2,502 students and 1,050 staff. Of all the cases, 2,797 have recovered and 761 are still active — an increase of 135 from last week.

On Oct. 21, Rapid City Area Schools reported 218 total cases in the district, including 50 active cases among students and 18 active cases among staff. There were 529 students and 52 staff in quarantine. RCAS won't update its numbers again until Wednesday.

The Douglas School District reported six active cases among students and four in staff members Monday, with 48 students and five staff in quarantine. As of Friday, Meade School District reported 11 active cases among students and four among staff.

South Dakota’s public universities report the following active COVID-19 case counts as of 5 p.m. Sunday:

  • South Dakota Mines: 7 students, 4 staff, 38 quarantined

  • Black Hills State University: 40 students, 3 staff, 123 quarantined

  • University of South Dakota: 25 students, 4 staff, 152 quarantined

  • South Dakota State University: 23 students, 2 staff, 99 quarantined

  • Dakota State University: 17 students, 1 staff, 82 quarantined

  • Northern State University: 19 students, 5 staff, 35 quarantined