- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) - The tribal president from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation has asked for a federal civil rights investigation into reported harassment of Native American students at a hockey game at the Rapid City Civic Center.

Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Yellow Bird Steele sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama on Thursday asking for the inquiry.

His spokeswoman said the letter went out but he had not yet heard back late Thursday, and he did not want to comment beyond a news release and a copy of the letter.

Steele said the charging of one man with misdemeanor disorderly conduct when several other adults were involved in the Jan. 24 incident “sends the wrong message.”

Trace O’Connell, 41, was charged as a result of a nearly month long investigations into events at the Jan. 24 game. O’Connell’s attorney, Patrick Duffy, said Wednesday that his client disputes the charge.

Chaperones for the students from the American Horse School in Allen said the children and chaperones left the game early because of harassment that included sprayed beer, racial slurs and thrown objects.

Steele asked for an investigation based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act to determine whether hate crime or civil rights violation charges are warranted.

“The Rapid City Civic Center is a public accommodation and all Americans have a right to be free from discrimination in the use and enjoyment of such facilities. Our children, parents and teachers were denied their Civil Rights to use and enjoy the public accommodations during a school field trip,” Steele wrote.

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