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.

Image by Jim Stevens, Rapid City artist

On Wednesday, November 6th, the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments involving prayers or invocations at public meetings. This year the Rapid City Common Council has been threatened with a lawsuit for hosting predominantly Christian invocations before meetings. At issue is the First Amendment establishment clause that prohibits Congress, and by legal extension, governmental bodies, from establishing or promoting a particular religion.

A long battle over a little girl has apparently ended. Baby Veronica is going back to South Carolina to live with her adoptive parents. The Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an order keeping the child in Oklahoma, one of many state rulings made after the U.S. Supreme Court said the Indian Child Welfare Act did not apply. The high court ruled that Veronica’s biological father, an enrolled Cherokee, had not established a parental relationship with the girl, and so there was no family connection to preserve.

Victoria Wicks

We are a story-telling species. Whenever we get together, we start to relate to one another through stories, whether fictional or true. We tell jokes and life stories, and as we get to know and trust, we share our fears, our failures, and our sorrows. Through these stories, if we tell the right people, we pass along an oral account that might have historical relevance a few years down the road.

Victoria Wicks

The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota depends on federal money for basic services, relying on promises made through treaties with the United States government. In March of this year, mandatory spending cuts curtailed education and health care on the reservation, and if Congress won’t act to end the sequester for the coming fiscal year, another round of cuts will devastate federally funded programs. But as Crow Creek community leaders tell Victoria Wicks, the tribe is optimistically taking steps toward greater self-sufficiency.

Victoria Wicks

A family doctor from Bayside, California, is pedaling with her husband across the United States to call attention to the negative health effects of climate change. Wendy Ring stopped off in Rapid City to speak with a class to a couple of groups before continuing her journey that ends at Washington D.C. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks caught up with Ring at Oglala Lakota College’s Rapid City campus.
OUTTRO: A link for more information on Dr. Wendy Ring’s trip and to follow her journey


Victoria Wicks

A two-day conference to introduce Native students to health careers wraps up Wednesday in Rapid City. The second annual Health Careers Summit focuses on student research and connects students with faculty and health care professionals.

Victoria Wicks

Frank Waln is a Rosebud hip hop artist who is gaining national acclaim. He is the subject of a documentary screened at the most recent Voices of the Heartland presentation at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City. At the screening, Native American Music Award winning flutist Cody Blackbird played and talked with the audience. In the lobby, display boards held original art created by students from Rosebud schools. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks talks with Blackbird and film producer Randy Ericksen to find out what it is about Frank Waln that inspires a documentary.

Victoria Wicks

They’re not really saber-tooths, and they’re not really cats, but they’re related. They’re Nimravids, and researchers have discovered they fought one another viciously. These creatures now have an exhibit all to themselves at the Museum of Geology at the School of Mines and Technology. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks talks with two scientists about the mysteries exposed when fossils are uncovered.

Image courtesy of the artist

An exhibit by pastel artist Tim Peterson opened at the Dahl Arts Center in Rapid City this weekend. Titled “Drive By Stories,” the show features brightly colored slice-of-life scenes that Peterson says he notices when he’s going about his day.
Peterson says soft pastels, or dry pastels, are pure color held together with a bit of binder, and so they don’t fade, dry out, or crack as other painting mediums tend to do.

Victoria Wicks

There’s a lab in Rapid City where nanoparticles, the tiniest bits of matter, are used to create new materials.
Since its inception eight years ago, the Composites and Polymer Engineering Laboratory, or CAPE Lab, has grown a large infrastructure of machinery, equipment, and instrumentation. This allows scientists to do everything from molecular manipulation of materials to industrial manufacture of products to lab and field testing.

Victoria Wicks

Last week a graduate art student from UCLA returned to her hometown of Rapid City to work on a sculpture with area children. Bridget Beck will now ship the parts of the sculpture back to Los Angeles, where she’ll work on it with L.A. kids. And at the end of July, seven Rapid City kids will travel to L.A. to meet California kids and see the completed project. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks goes to General Beadle Elementary School in North Rapid to watch the progress and talk with some of the children.

Victoria Wicks

The United States needs a strong national energy policy but nationally, we can’t seem to agree on whether it’s hot or cold. This constant bickering and nitpicking blocks the nation from taking meaningful action. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit a level higher than it has for millions of years. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks listens to the noise of the national debate and brings it home with a couple of South Dakota voices.

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission chairman Gary Hanson says the world needs to transition to renewable energy but, because the industry and economy of fossil fuels is so huge and existing technology is limited, change won't come abruptly.  He visited with SDPB news reporter Victoria Wicks.

Climate change, global warming, greenhouse effect—people can't even agree on the terminology. Whatever it’s called, conventional wisdom in the United States tells us it’s a liberal issue, that conservatives don’t believe human activity has much to do with it.

But it’s not all that simple, even here in the red state of South Dakota. A few conservative voices have emerged over the years to support taking action to prevent or mitigate the effects of human activity on the earth’s climate.

At the end of the Indian Child Welfare Act Summit held in Rapid City last week, tribal leaders came away with hopes for greater autonomy. A tribal judge suggests that the state should resurrect the Governor’s Commission on ICWA, but tribal leaders say they want to plan their own course.

Victoria Wicks

A U.S. State Department consultation with tribes over the Keystone XL pipeline was shut down Thursday in Rapid City by tribal leaders. Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, Nez Perce, Ponca, and Pawnee leaders joined together in walking out of the consultation after they discovered they were meeting with two people they later referred to as “low level clerks.”

Victoria Wicks

Indian tribes say the state of South Dakota takes more than 700 tribal children out of their homes every year, and the majority of them are placed with white foster families or institutions. Now tribes want the federal government to take money from the state Department of Social Services and give it to the tribes so they can run their own child protection programs. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks attended the Great Plains ICWA Summit, called by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, that is taking place this week in Rapid City.

The executive board of the South Dakota legislature has approved payment of membership dues and travel expenses for legislators who want to be involved in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. It’s one of four national organizations approved for these expenses. Members say it’s a forum where they can hear from national experts and learn what’s going on in other states. Detractors say it’s a conservative, corporate-driven arena that churns out template legislation.

This is the way we wash our clothes—with a washer, a dryer, tap water, bottled detergent, dryer sheets…  But residents of West Hills Retirement Village tell a different story, historically speaking. They came together for a forum at the Journey Museum in Rapid City, to sit in a room filled with historical laundry implements and storyboards hanging by clothespins on a line strung around the room.
As the exhibit points out, laundry has sociopolitical aspects, but to these sons and daughters of pioneers, wash day was just a lot of work.

On April 17, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling that could invalidate a South Dakota law allowing forced blood draws without a warrant from DUI arrestees. Defense attorneys say the recent ruling could reveal implied consent to be unconstitutional. But the Attorney General says any change in South Dakota’s implied consent law is up to the courts and the legislature. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks explores the ramifications of the high court’s decision in Missouri v. McNeely.

South Dakota taxpayers will pay dues for all state legislators to join the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. The state’s legislative executive board met this week and voted to include ALEC in its roster of national legislative associations. The new policy includes travel expenses for state legislators involved in ALEC leadership.
ALEC is a national organization that supplies state legislatures with model conservative legislation. Critics say the organization is funded by corporations, and that its model legislation benefits Corporate America.

Victoria Wicks

Gun control and background checks have garnered national attention lately, but a group of shooters in Rapid City want to stay distanced from all that. They just like to shoot their guns. It’s a sport, and a passion, and these award-winning shooters tell you it takes years of practice to master the mental and physical discipline. SDPB’s Victoria Wicks goes to a shooting range to find out what draws these folks to shoot competitively week after week and year after year.

Twenty Rapid City-area children have the chance to work with a Los Angeles artist this summer, creating a sculpture kids can play on. And six of those children will travel to LA in July to work with the artist in a studio at UCLA, on a sculpture called “Will Be.”
Local coordinator Holly Sortland and artist Bridget Beck went to high school together in Rapid City. Now Sortland has founded Project Respect, and Beck is a California sculptor involved in the Heart Project in LA.
Both women are working with children to prevent destructive behavior.

Edgar Matuska

South Dakota Pianist Eugene Gienger is closing the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra’s current season with one of the most strenuous piano compositions ever written. More than 50 minutes long, Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto is a powerhouse of emotion, requiring of the pianist years of practice and great physical strength. For today’s Dakota Digest, SDPB’s Victoria Wicks travels to Gienger’s Custer home to hear him play excerpts and to talk with him about his music.

Victoria Wicks

A California street artist with South Dakota roots is featured at the Sioux Indian Museum in Rapid City. 

Senator Tim Johnson sat down with women from Democracy in Action on Friday during his visit to Rapid City. As SDPB’s Victoria Wicks reports,  the women’s questions ranged from politics to policy and included gun control, Citizens United, banking reform, the global water crisis, fuels and energy, and veterans’ physical and mental health care.

Victoria Wicks

Three Native mothers, joined by the Rosebud and Oglala Sioux Tribes, filed suit in South Dakota federal court in Rapid City Thursday for violations of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The plaintiffs claim that Pennington County routinely violates parents'  constitutional due process rights in abuse and neglect cases by not allowing evidence to be presented quickly after children are removed from their homes.

Chad Coppess, South Dakota Department of Tourism

By Victoria Wicks

Governor Dennis Daugaard sat at his desk in the Capitol Rotunda Wednesday and signed the Public Safety Improvement Act into law.

The package of legislation culminates the Criminal Justice Initiative to reduce South Dakota’s prison populations. Included are expanded drug, DUI, and veterans’ courts; intensive supervision for felons on probation or parole; treatment for addiction; and an emphasis on treatment within the community rather than incarceration in prison.

A proposal to allow school personnel, volunteers, and security guards to carry guns in schools has passed through the House Education Committee by an 8 to 7 vote.

House Bill 1087 has been amended since it was first heard in committee on Wednesday.

If it becomes law, the proposal allows school boards, with the concurrence of the county sheriff, to decide to arm teachers, administrators, and other personnel who go through a weapons training course.

The bill now goes to the full House, and if it passes there, goes on to the Senate Education Committee.

In the days following the 2012 election, a majority of states filed petitions with the White House asking to secede from the Union. One of those states was South Dakota. Although the petitions don’t do much more than earn a response from the White House, the symbolic acts have opened up a national dialogue.