Shouts of "Native lives matter" and "Hands up don't shoot" echoed along two of Rapid City's busiest streets Friday as nearly 100 men, women and children gathered to call attention to police brutality and the loss of Native American lives along Rapid Creek.
Rapid City Police officers stood discretely in the background while American Indian Movement Grassroots leaders welcomed the gathering that included both Native Americans and non-Natives who braved overcast skies and a sudden cold snap to stand with people around the nation to oppose police brutality
"Discrimination is alive here," Bill Means of Porcupine told the crowd before the group set out for a walk down Fifth Street and along Omaha Street. As participants walked, the names of 25 individuals who died along Rapid Creek were read.
Walkers stopped at the corner of Fifth and Omaha streets to raise their posters and show solidarity before they lined up along Omaha Street raising their hands and shouting "Hands up don't shoot" and "Native lives matter."
Several passing motorists honked their horns to support the marchers.
A brother of the late activist Russell Means, Means said it is important for people of all colors to question the process of justice in the United States and how it is applied to minorities and immigrants.
At the Sixth Street bridge spanning Rapid Creek, the walkers paused again for prayer and to once again listen to the names of those who died along its banks.
"We want to remember everybody and the lives that have been taken," Chase Iron Eyes of Bismarck, N.D., said. "Those families need closure."
Many of the deaths that occurred near Rapid Creek remain unsolved crimes, with cause of death listed as blunt force trauma or suicide, Iron Eyes said.
"It's a human rights crisis that we're dying at those rates," Iron Eyes said. "We've got problems, my relatives, but we're the only ones that can fix them. Only we can save us."
Royce Yellow Hawk of Rosebud sang a healing song of remembrance for those who died along the creek. His older brother, Royal Yellow Hawk was only 26 when his body was found near the creek in 2001.
"I miss him," Yellow Hawk said.
Iron Eyes also asked the gathering to remember the spirits of Rapid City Police officers Nick Armstrong and Ryan McCandless and their assailant, Daniel Tiger, who died in an exchange of gunfire in 2011.
They were casualties of an "undeclared race war here in South Dakota," Iron Eyes said, urging everyone to flex their minds, not guns, to take control of their destiny.
"We have to rise above that. I know we are better than that and we're more evolved than being racist towards each other," Iron Eyes said. "That's our future.
"It's a new day."
Contact Andrea J. Cook at 394-8423 or firstname.lastname@example.org