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We expect more from our leaders

Last week, NDN Collective President and CEO, Nick Tilsen, was caught on video confronting Rapid City Police Department officers. The encounter occurred Monday, August 16, when a patrol car for the RCPD pulled over a vehicle for a routine traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle pulled off the roadway onto property owned by NDN Collective.

Moments later, another vehicle is seen pulling up and parking right behind the officers. Mr. Tilsen then steps out of the truck and immediately begins ordering the police to leave his property, using a raised voice and vulgar language. In the less than 30 second interaction, Tilsen used the “F” word seven times and called the officers b*tches.

While any business owner has the right to ask police to leave their private property, there is no need for the aggressive manner in which Tilsen did so. In fact, that kind of combative behavior could only serve to smother the message his organization is working so hard to get out.

Tilsen released a statement on the NDN Collective website a few days later, addressing his encounter with the RCPD. Nowhere in his statement does he acknowledge his aggressive behavior or foul language as possibly unnecessary or counter-productive. In fact, he doubles-down and begins his statement by saying he heard an indigenous family had been pulled over and he was worried about their safety, going on to cite statistics for police brutality and racial profiling against minorities.

Tilsen’s facts are not wrong, but the way he chose to carry himself was. In South Dakota, Native Americans account for approximately 10% of the state’s total population. The incarcerated population in our state is roughly 90% Native American. There is no doubt that minorities are disproportionately arrested or killed by police. There is no doubt that the land NDN Collective’s property sits on is stolen treaty land.

But the way Tilsen chose to conduct himself, not only as a representative of NDN Collective, but of Native people fighting for their rights everywhere, leaves some doubt to his capabilities for truly progressing his organization and affecting real change. As the leader of an organization at the forefront of Indian Country, we expect more. As a role model for our children and young people, we expect more.


The Rapid City Journal posted the video on their YouTube channel:


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