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Moving from the Rez to Rapid City

Moving from the Rez to Rapid City

By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them)


It was probably in the 1940s during WWII that the greatest influx of Natives to Rapid City took place. A new military base called Rapid City Army Air Force Base began to draw many military families and so the shortage of rental homes needed to be bolstered.

Of course there have always been many Lakota people living along the banks of Rapid Creek. It was a great place to camp and cut the lodge poles needed for their tipis. It is said that the great Lakota warrior Crazy Horse was born on Rapid Creek or Minniluzahan.

But moving from the reservations to the city was not so easy back then. Most white landlords did not want to rent to Native Americans. Usually one outspoken and aggressive member of a Lakota family would find a home in Rapid and a job and their home would become a base or off-reservation home to members of their family and friends. Many of those Lakota moving to the City set up tents on the land owned by the Lakota Nation on the grounds known now as Sioux San. Many also pitched tents at a fairly empty area that became known as Oshkosh Camp.

Back in those days there were signs posted in the windows of the bars downtown that read, “No Indians allowed.” But the same signs could also be seen at local restaurants and parks. In other words the Lakota people moving to Rapid City found it to be a pretty hostile place to live.

When my Dad was looking for a house in Rapid he got lucky because he was a skilled carpenter and helped build the house he would eventually rent. We moved to North Rapid to the house on Lemmon Avenue about 1942.

My Dad got a job at the Rapid City Army Air Force Base as a maintenance man. We lived in Rapid but still went to the Holy Rosary Mission Boarding School at Pine Ridge every winter.

My grandfather, Talles Tapio was one of the first Native Americans to get a job with the City of Rapid City. He was also one of the first Natives to buy a piece of land along Rapid Creek where he built his own house.

And so it was families like the Giagos, Tapios, Whetstones, and the Lone Hills that first set up households in Rapid City. Doksa ake’.


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