Mni Luhazan Camp Winter Camp for Houseless
By Diana Berek
Mni Luhazan Camp was meant to be a Winter Camp for houseless Lakota relatives in Rapid City, South Dakota. Mni Luhazan Camp had been in the planning for months. An organizing group had met with Mayor Allende who had told the group he was open to them bringing in “tiny houses”. The Mayor had even agreed the area chosen for the Winter Camp “was a good spot”. It was on what the City calls “public land” but which is a space which essentially is stolen land, Lakota Land.
Mni Luhazan Camp was intended to be a safe space for houseless Lakota people who have often faced violence and brutality when they attempt to set up spaces under the bridges of Rapid City. Organizers hoped to develop a space that provides safety and warmth for the upcoming winter. While preparations were being made with the Mayor, an area was informally occupied for approximately 2 months. Then 4 tipis were brought in sometime in early October and were set up. People gathered early on Friday, October 16 to share food and hold a ceremony. Children were enjoying their games and just running around in the open space. As they prepared to begin the ceremony, the Rapid City Police arrived and said they had to take the tipis down, that their presence was unlawful and that the Winter Camp was illegal.
Organizers protested that they had consulted with the Mayor, who thought this would be “a good spot.” The Police patrol Captain denied that the Mayor authorized the area. The organizer said “I was in the meeting. You were not.” Negotiations ensued. Eventually, the police agreed to stand by, in order to let the ceremony continue, but if the tipis were not down by 1 or 2 am the police would consider it an illegal “protest”; would arrest people who refused to leave, and they would dismantle, confiscate, discard the tipis. The encampment continued with the ceremony, volunteers agreed to be the ones arrested, while others would leave and the matter will now go to the courts.
Here is a video link to a live stream of what was to have been the dedication of the Mni Luhazan Camp.