In the last few weeks, protests for racial justice have taken place in every state in our nation, in over 2,000 cities and towns. In Rapid City, South Dakota, too, where Wild Idea’s offices and processing plant are located, residents have taken to the streets in support of Black Lives Matter.
Black people make up a very small percentage of our area’s population, which can make it difficult to experience the same urgent awakening happening in places like Louisville, Philadelphia, or Los Angeles. The fact that Black people make up a small percentage of our population is no excuse to disengage from the current upheaval in national race relations. That excuse is both ignorant and cowardly.
Our ranch sits adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where thousands of people live in poverty as desperate as any minority in the United States. Unemployment runs to 80% on the reservation. Education is substandard and violence is common. Many Lakota people come to Rapid City looking for work and fulfillment of the American promise of fruitful and secure lives. Only a few find that life. Many find the same abuses as Black citizens in New York, Chicago, or rural Georgia.
Wild Idea tries to fight the reality of implicit and blatant racism by supporting a diverse work force based on merit, not skin color. Thirty percent of our workforce are POC. We give what we can to the Boy’s Club (which is mostly Native children), and we support and march in the Native American parade. We show up in court when our employees are arrested for minor infractions that we (as white citizens) would never be stopped for. We pay fines and arrange for rides when driver’s licenses are suspended. We attend Sun Dances and Sweat Lodges. We even comforted the wife of one of our employees who was shot dead on his own porch after she called the police - she called the police for assistance and help, not to shoot her husband.
We are also aligned with Native sourcing partners, and we have a couple Native Americans who are in supervisory and manager positions, but we have no POC in ownership or on our board of directors. None of that is enough and we know we have to do better.
A large part of our business model and mission is to create a balance among all the life entities on the Great Plains. It is an imperfect metaphor, but all the creatures in the Great Plains ecosystem are essential parts of the greater whole. It is like our American society itself; none will thrive unless all thrive. And, it is our duty and mission to work toward that goal. It’s all part of the whole and we’re all a part of it.