Community gathers to discuss race relations in Rapid City

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Rapid City, SD Race relations were at the forefront of a community conversation Saturday.

Black Hills FOX reporter Robert Grant has more on a long–running dispute discussed Saturday – over Rapid City's West Side.

Many locals are familiar with these sights - it's what Rapid City knows as the West Side.

But new research shows more than 100 years ago – it was home to an Indian boarding school.

And it's what sparked debate for some in the community.

Heather Dawn Thompson, a lawyer of Native American law, said "We're trying to educate people. There's a lot of animosity in the community regarding that particular land."

Heather Dawn Thompson conducted research on the Rapid City Indian Boarding School, which sat on 1200 acres of land.

And it was government policy to bring native children here from their homes on the reservation.

But, when native families hoped to move next to the school during the 1950's – Dawn Thompson says protests erupted ... and Natives were forced to the North side.

The history has since stirred up animosity between some in the community.

Dawn Thompson said "Understanding each other's shared history. We don't know what we don't know. And there is so much history in Rapid City."

The 1200 acre piece of land stretched from Canyon Lake to Mountain View Road.

It has since become home to landmarks including Sioux Park, West Middle School, and Stevens High School.

The 8th Rapid City community conversation hosted at the Lakota Nation Invitational, Saturday – brought awareness to the issue.

Chas Jewett, who coordinates the Rapid City Community Conversations, said "We're focused on building a community that reflects our shared values. A place where everyone is safe and everyone has opportunity."

The conversations focus on race relations – a problem some say has reached a national level, but organizers say Rapid City is handling differently.

Jewett said "America has a crisis. We're dealing with this race stuff on a national level. In Rapid City we haven't broke into violence – we've been having conversations."

To make change for the better.

"We're going to make this town better and we're going to do it with smiles on our face."

About 85 people attended today's conversation, and organizers say there was a good mix of Native and non–Native representatives.