Hotel owner faces furious backlash and employee exodus after declaring she will no longer serve Native Americans
Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, S.D. (Hotel website gallery photo)

A hotel owner in Rapid City, South Dakota, is facing significant blowback for a social media post in which she said that Native Americans no longer would be welcome at her business.

On Sunday, Connie Uhre, owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel, wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post, “Due to the killing that took place at the Grand Gateway Hotel on March 19, 2022…we will no longer allow any Native American on property.”

TV station KNBN reports that police responded to a report of a disturbance at the hotel around 4:30 a.m. Saturday and were notified that a gun had been fired in one of the rooms. They discovered the victim, a male in his late teens, who was transported to the hospital with serious, life-threatening injuries. Despite Uhre's description of the incident as "a killing," a spokesperson for the Rapid City Police Department said the victim is still alive.

The hotel owner wrote that she can "not allow a Native American to enter our business including Cheers," adding she can't tell "who is a bad Native or a good Native." Cheers is a sports lounge and casino on the hotel property.

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The city's mayor, Steve Allender, shared Uhre's Facebook message on his Twitter feed. He told the Rapid City Journal on Monday that he felt he couldn't be silent on the issue after he saw the hotel owner's comments.

"I just felt that I couldn't be silent and pretend like this is just a harmless venting out of frustration," he said. "This is an attack on not only the 12% of Rapid City citizens who are Native American, but also the larger Native American population nationwide. So I sent the Tweet, on the road traveling today, as a bare minimum symbol of support to the Native American community."

Tribal, city, county, law enforcement leaders have also issued a joint statement, which described the comments as “wrong, harmful and hurtful not only to Native Americans but also to Rapid City citizens, businesses, and the community at large.”

But the hotel is suffering more than just verbal rebukes. According to SDPB Radio, the entire staff at the hotel's bar has quit. "I can't have that be a part of my life, that negativity. So I just don't want to be associated with that," explained former employee Red Elk Zephier. "I didn't even think about the money or anything involved, I just, I can't have that in my life."

Many residents also told SDPB Radio that they plan to boycott the establishment.

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