At an April 2 meeting, the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council tabled a resolution to repeal its Rapid City Journal boycott, tribal spokesperson Kevin Steele told ICTMN.
Since February 24, the council has requested that Pine Ridge Indian Reservation businesses not sell the newspaper.
The council will take up the repeal measure next month, Steele said, explaining that the group postponed the vote “out of respect for the Pass Creek District,” which had first fielded the idea of a boycott.
The district did so in response to a RCJ front-page story by staff writer Seth Tupper, published January 31 and headlined, “Did Native students stand for National Anthem?”. The article elaborated on a disputed anonymous claim that Pine Ridge schoolchildren who were allegedly taunted with racial slurs and sprayed with beer during a Rapid City Rush hockey game had not stood for The Star-Spangled Banner.
The story caused widespread outrage, on Pine Ridge, in the article’s reader-comments section and nationally, including accusations that it was an attempt to “blame the victim.”
In recent weeks, RCJ coverage has been more even-handed and even conciliatory, including an apology and an editorial condemning racism, according to Steele. “The Journal’s actions don’t change what happened to the children,” he said, “but now we are one step closer to positive change from the Native perspective.”
As a result of the improvements, the measure to rescind landed on the council’s April agenda, Steele said. However, without the Pass Creek representative who was most conversant with the district’s wishes, the matter could not move forward.
Reservation stores contacted by ICTMN said they were complying with the boycott request and would do so until further notice.
In its February 24 resolution, the council also forbade attorney Patrick Duffy from doing business on the reservation, including arguing cases in tribal court. He remains barred “as of now,” Steele said.
A prominent South Dakota lawyer, Duffy is best known as an attorney for the landmark Native voting-rights case Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine. However, Duffy is representing the man accused in the hockey-game incident, which was one reason the council banned him.
The council also mistakenly identified Duffy as an RCJ writer. Steele acknowledged that this was an error and said it occurred because the attorney was mistaken for his son, Padraic Duffy, a sportswriter at the newspaper.
Calls to the attorney’s office for a comment were not returned. “My father is usually not at a loss for words,” joked the younger Duffy.