Victoria Wicks

SDPB Freelance Reporter/Producer

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She has in the past been a newspaper reporter, and she spent about 14 years advocating for crime victims in Rapid City and Aberdeen. Vicky is also a creative writer; several of her short stories have been published, one of them in an anthology titled Fishing for Chickens: Short Stories about Rural Youth. In addition, Vicky is a visual artist, creating pottery, watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, and photographs. She holds a Master of Arts degree in English from the University of South Dakota.

Thirty years ago, the federal Victims of Crime Act was signed into law, giving crime victims certain rights. The act also established grant money for programs that help victims through the criminal justice system and to offset victims’ expenses such as medical and therapeutic treatments. Thursday in Rapid City, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks spoke with representatives of criminal justice and community agencies who came together to observe National Crime Victims Rights Week.

New powers granted to the Rapid City Human Relations Commission take effect at the end of this week. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks learns that the commission now has the ability to enforce sanctions and subpoena witnesses and records.

Four judges in Rapid City say a federal judge went too far in requiring them to sign orders to produce transcripts. Their response, filed this weekend in federal court in Rapid City, is the most recent action in an ongoing lawsuit claiming violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 14th Amendment in Pennington County.

Rapid City business owner Dave Johnson announced Wednesday his candidacy for the District 33 Senate seat now held by Phil Jensen. Johnson will challenge Jensen in the Republican primary election.
   As an arborist and owner of a tree service, Johnson says one of his primary concerns is funding to battle the mountain pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills.

Victoria Wicks

Rapid City business owner Dave Johnson announced Wednesday his candidacy for the District 33 Senate seat now held by Phil Jensen. Johnson says Jensen’s priorities are an embarrassment, and he hopes to bring common sense to the position.
   Johnson says the senator representing constituents has to hear what they’re talking about and look for solutions to problems that are real. He says Jensen champions issues that don’t reflect local concerns.

South Dakota’s laws allow criminal prosecution of people whose bodily fluids hold evidence that a drug has been metabolized, even if the drug is no longer present.
   A Lawrence County public defender argued to the state’s Supreme Court Monday that those laws unconstitutionally put the burden of proof on the defendant.
   In March 2012, Sean Whistler was arrested in Spearfish. He had been drinking and had marijuana on his person, in his car, and in his system.

Victoria Wicks

The McGillycuddy House in Rapid City sits empty, with exterior evidence of reconstruction. It was built in 1887 by Valentine McGillycuddy, a contract surgeon with General George Crook, Indian agent at Pine Ridge, mayor of Rapid City, and dean of School of Mines and Technology.

Victoria Wicks

To encourage people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act before the March 31st deadline, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stopped in at Rapid City this weekend. Kim Gillan tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that there is local help available, and even if people don’t think they qualify, they need to pick up the phone and ask.

For more information about Affordable Care in South Dakota, go online to the federal website to shop the marketplace or find a navigator near you.

Victoria Wicks

Members of federally recognized tribes aren’t bound by some of the same restrictions as non-Native people when it comes to signing up for Affordable Care. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks checks in with Tinka Duran, navigator with the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, at a weekend informational meeting in Rapid City.
For more information about Affordable Care in South Dakota, go online to the federal website to find a navigator near you.

Victoria Wicks

Nancy Robrahn and Jennie Rosenkranz are a Rapid City couple who plan to challenge South Dakota's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  They attempted to get a marriage license at the Pennington County Courthouse last week, but were denied.  The couple, together for 27 years, will get married in Minneapolis next month where same-sex marriage is legal.  When Robrahn and Rosenkranz return to South Dakota they'll file a lawsuit challenging the state for not recognizing their marriage certificate.

Victoria Wicks

About 75 supporters of gay rights gathered in Rapid City Thursday night to keep momentum going for equality in South Dakota. The event is a follow-up to a rally on February 17th that drew a large crowd in Rapid City’s Main Street Square. Organizers told SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that they’ll continue to fight against bills such as those proposed in this year’s legislative session that allow for discrimination against gay people.

Donna Fisher, Journey Museum

Students from Pine Ridge Reservation schools screened the film Lakota Star Knowledge Thursday at the Journey Museum in Rapid City. Filmmakers are encouraged that the Lakota children in attendance are familiar with the stories.

Victoria Wicks

Earlier this month, the South Dakota Department of Corrections took the unusual step of notifying the public that a sex offender would be released from prison on February 7th. His name is Michael Pigney, he’s 51 years old, and he now lives in Rapid Valley. Prison officials say he represents a danger of sexually assaulting children again. On Monday night, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks went to Rapid Valley Elementary School, where around 250 people gathered to hear advice and information from law officers and school officials.

Victoria Wicks

Rapid City filmmakers are creating a documentary about Lakota Star Knowledge for the Journey Museum. The names children learn for constellations are from Greek or Roman tradition. But other cultures, the Lakota among them, have defined what they can see of the universe in their own terms. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports on the documentary, the last project of a NASA grant to the museum.

Victoria Wicks

The Rapid City Hens is a group determined to realize the dream of allowing chickens in back yards within city limits. It’s trendy in other cities, including Seattle and Minneapolis. Sioux Falls allows it. Pierre is considering it. But the Rapid City Council has said that city ordinance won’t change unless the Hens first convince other urban residents that it is okay to live next door to a chicken coop.

Black Hills author Kent Meyers recently spoke to a gathering of writers and readers at the Journey Museum in Rapid City. The museum is featuring an exhibit of Western literature through the end of March. Kent Meyers tells SDBP’s Victoria Wicks that the fiction of the West often glorifies a brutal reality.

Victoria Wicks

Federal Judge Jeffrey Viken ruled on Wednesday, Jan. 29, that a lawsuit can continue against Pennington County claiming its practices are unconstitutional and violate Indian Child Welfare Act. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks speaks with one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys to learn what happens next.

Victoria Wicks

Paul Peterson lives and works in the Black Hills, but he primarily paints abstract scenes of East River. About fifty of those paintings are now on exhibit at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. As a visual artist and a musician, Peterson tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that the two arts are separate functions, but they work together to reveal who he is.

For more information and galleries, go to:

Larry Blackwood

Black and white photographs of grain elevators are currently on exhibit at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. This is one of the photographic series of Larry Blackwood.  He is a Montana artist who also creates fine art images and collages of images. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks talks with Blackwood about his artistic life and why he chose as one of his subjects these skyscrapers of the prairie.

To see more of Blackwood's work, go to and look at Galleries.

The South Dakota Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments challenging the state’s blood-draw protocols in DUI arrests. In April the United States Supreme Court ruled that officers have to get a search warrant before drawing blood when a traffic stop is routine. But the state says drivers consent to a warrantless search when they get a drivers license. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks talks with defense and prosecution lawyers.

Victoria Wicks

Last November, a discussion in Sioux Falls about policies over the pledge of allegiance stirred up a heated national debate. In the aftermath, a South Dakota state representative says he’s going to introduce a bill that, if passed, will require all schools to make time for the pledge, although it won’t compel students to recite it. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks researches the sometimes dark history of these 31 words.

Signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is fairly simple. The website seems to be functioning now, and if you’re computer-literate or have good help, creating an account and shopping for insurance is doable. At least, that’s the experience SDPB’s Victoria Wicks had when she went through the process. But as she learned while researching the marketplace, not all low-income applicants qualify for subsidies. There’s a gap in coverage for certain low income people in South Dakota, created where state and federal governments collide.

Courtesy photo

There are difficulties in providing healthcare to a rural state with a sparse population in a large geographic area. That describes much of South Dakota, especially west of the Missouri River. For a fuller picture, add in the challenges of an aging population and low income patients. On this segment of SDPB’s ongoing examination of the State of the State’s infrastructure, Victoria Wicks learns that the state’s most vital healthcare infrastructure isn’t so much bricks and mortar as it is flesh and blood.

Victoria Wicks

A black standard poodle named Rhett is helping children to read in Rapid City. This new program allows children to read one-on-one to the dog, which decreases their anxiety about reading out loud in the classroom. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks went to the Rapid City Public Library this weekend to meet Rhett and talk with his handler.

Victoria Wicks

Cody Blackbird is a nationally awarded Native flutist who walks in two worlds, thriving artistically while practicing a traditional way of being. He fuses indigenous beliefs with modern life in the same way as he incorporates traditional flute in contemporary music. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks sits down with Blackbird to hear his flute and his story.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Duffy

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments last week concerning prayer before city council meetings. That case involves the town of Greece, New York, where the town council conducts invocations similar to the ones in Rapid City. Victoria Wicks talked with Rapid City attorney Patrick Duffy about the legal precedents involved and possible outcomes of the case.

The Rapid City Common Council, along with the mayor and an atheist organization from Wisconsin, are awaiting the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court case called Town of Greece versus Galloway. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has threatened to sue Rapid City for its practice of offering primarily Christian prayers before council meetings. But the city officials and supporters say the tradition is strong and should prevail. In the last of a five-part series, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks talks with people on both sides of this debate.

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments last week regarding prayer before public meetings. It’s a complicated topic, pitting various First Amendment rights against one another. Depending on the outcome of this case, the Rapid City Common Council could face a lawsuit for its invocation practices. For today’s Dakota Digest, the fourth in a five-part series, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks distills the Supreme Court arguments.

Image by Jim Stevens, Rapid City artist

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding prayers at public meetings. Although the controversy settles on the practices of a city council in Greece, New York, similar primarily Christian invocations are offered by the Rapid City Common Council. Depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court case, the Rapid City council could face a lawsuit.

Image by Jim Stevens, Rapid City artist

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against offering prayers before public meetings. Depending on the outcome, the Rapid City Common Council might face a lawsuit for its practice of starting meetings with predominantly Christian prayers.