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.

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Fundraising for restoration of the McGillycuddy House in Rapid City has received a notable boost. Valentine T. McGillycuddy became known as a Renaissance man of the Old West. Now nationally-known watercolorist Jon Crane has donated a painting of the house, along with 300 prints and 30 artist’s proofs, with proceeds to go toward restoration. This weekend SDPB’s Victoria Wicks spoke with Jon Crane and with McGillycuddy’s grandson at a fundraiser where the painting was auctioned off.

Victoria Wicks

A lesbian couple married in Minnesota at the end of April now has a reason to sue the State of South Dakota. On Thursday, May 8, the women attempted to change their names on their drivers licenses but were turned down. Same-sex marriages are not recognized under South Dakota law and the state’s constitution. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks accompanied the couple to the driver’s license station outside Rapid City.

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South Dakota has weighed in on a New York lawsuit, challenging the state’s ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines. Court documents indicate New York enacted the ban in part to deter mass murders such as the shooting of school children and personnel at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But Attorney General Marty Jackley tells SDPB’s Victoria Wicks that a ban in New York legalizes a ban in South Dakota, and violates the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Prayers before public meetings do not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued Monday, May 5. Five justices agree that the primarily Christian prayers offered before city meetings in Greece, New York, do not establish a preferred religion if they are not conducted in a coercive manner. Justices also cite a long tradition of prayers before public meetings.

A federal judge in Rapid City has ruled that court reporters for four state circuit judges must produce hearing transcripts. The ruling filed Thursday resolves a standoff between state and federal authority in an ongoing lawsuit. Three Native parents and two tribes say state court, the Department of Social Services, and the Pennington County state’s attorney routinely violate the Indian Child Welfare Act and the 14th Amendment. They say judges conduct insufficient hearings after children are removed from their homes.

Victoria Wicks

An unlikely friendship developed over three decades when a New York filmmaker traveled to Porcupine, South Dakota, to document the life of rancher Vernon Sager. That partnership resulted in the 2005 documentary The Last Cowboy, shown on PBS. Last week, the rancher and the filmmaker shared the film with audiences in the Black Hills and shared stories with SDPB’s Victoria Wicks.

Victoria Wicks

The oil boom in North Dakota has changed that state’s demographics and economy, especially on the western side. The additional income is welcome to business owners and the government. But the huge influx of people and machines comes with a price. At the 9th annual New Horizons Oil and Gas Conference hosted by South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks learned more about the socioeconomic realities of a boom.

Victoria Wicks

On Earth Day, members of environmental groups came together to call for cleanup of thousands of abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota and other locations, most of them in Western states. Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills headed up this effort and chose the Cheyenne River as a meeting place. She says it’s one of several contaminated areas in the state. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks traveled to find the environmentalists about 20 miles east of Hermosa on Highway 40.

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.