Published April 10, 2016
ABERDEEN, SOUTH DAKOTA—Justin and Nichole Ringing Shield, tribal citizens of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, take pride in the fact their six-year-old son, Nokosi, competes in wrestling. At various wrestling events, they take videos of their son wrestling with a cell phone camera and subscribe to a website run by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) so they can see the different angles of matches they may not have captured with the cell phone.
And, Nokosi is a good wrestler as evidenced by him taking fourth place in a recent tournament.
That aside, they were not prepared for the shock they encountered last Monday while watching the April 2 and 3 state AAU tournament held in Aberdeen, South Dakota, with their 12-year-old daughter. With their daughter, they watched six matches featuring Nokosi.
During four of the six videos, they heard two men, who have not yet been identified, make anti American Indians, including their son, who sports a pony-tail.
The videos contain two Caucasian men, one in his early twenties and the other in his forties, discussing American Indians in disparaging terms. According to the Ringing Shields, the men were not serving as sports commentators; their racist comments were part of their conversation they held during the taping of the videos.
In the videos, the two men referred to Nokosi as “Ponytail.” The couple’s daughter asked, “Why do they keep calling him Ponytail?”
The Ringing Shields made notes of the six matches on the videos that read as follows:
Ringing Shield vs Jodozi
- Terrible scoring, concerned with other issues. Got scored incorrectly and lost the match while they talk amongst themselves.
Ringing Shield vs. Carter
- Both commentators begin being critical of the reservation and people that come from there. Also make fun of the names of Native American youth wrestling in the state tournament. Such as long names as sentences.
- They continue to talk about the people of the reservation, their habits and the handouts that they (think) they receive. Also about stray dogs, people killing each other, etc…
Ringing Shield vs. Erfman
- Nothing commentated here.
Ringing Shield vs. Dog Eagle
- Begin to call Nokosi by the name “Ponytail,” also betting on him while laughing with each other.
- Talking with each other as to see if people can hear what they’re saying. They know they are being recorded and laugh about it. All while continuing with the slander.
- One of the men begin to slander the Native Americans, calling them names, saying they receive handouts, that he pays (EXPLETIVE DELETED) taxes, so he is entitled to something, criticizing them for coming to events, saying they get kick backs on AAU cards. At the end, one of the males wishes he was a different color so he could get benefits.
Ringing Shield vs. Harwood
- Begins to talk about Nokosi’s ponytail, going into detail of what he would do to his ponytail and him if he wrestled him.
Ringing Shield vs. Miller
- Begin right away asking for his name, then saying what the heck and laughing at it while he walks away
- Once the match begins, one man says Nikosi looks like a girl and continues to laugh together.
“Our daughter was appalled at what she heard and could not believe they would talk like that,” said Nichole Ringing Shield, who is a social worker. “She had the moral compass to know these men were wrong.”
The Ringing Shields called the AAU and to report what are on the videos. They were told the videos would be reviewed. At week’s end, they had not heard back from the AAU. The videos are no longer on the website.
“Our main thing is we feel this is an educational opportunity for coaches in South Dakota to let their wrestlers and staffs to know this absolutely not acceptable,” said Nichole Ringing Shield to Native News Online.
The Ringing Shields remember how 57 American Indian students were subjeted at a hockey game in Rapid City in January 2015.
“We were talking about how badly those children were treated at the hockey game,” said Justin Ringing Shield. Now the videos really show an ugly side to how we (American Indians) are thought of here in South Dakota.”
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