Wingate Lodge Nice Falls accused of racism towards Browning residents
When Kevin Kickingwoman, a Browning-based teacher, checked in at the Wingate by Wyndham hotel in Great Falls on Tuesday night, a clerk at the desk allegedly told him that the hotel was not serving Browning people due to the Blackfeet Nation’s stay, coronavirus home policy.
Kevin was due to have surgery in Great Falls early Wednesday, and his daughter and mother, who live in Missoula, met him at the hotel.
Kevin’s daughter Sharen, 26, took to Twitter after the incident.
“Why are they still serving Missoula people? We have high Covid numbers all over the state at this point. Sounds like racist selection. Is this your policy, Wingate Hotels?” She tweeted Tuesday night.
Larry Gooldy, the hotel’s general manager, said the hotel does not accept guests from a state where COVID-19 is lockdown. The Blackfeet Nation’s Stay Home Order, recently extended to November 8, exempts certain activities, including leaving the reservation for medical services and groceries, and nowhere in the order the tribe solicits businesses outside of the Reservation to enforce their policy.
Gooldy said when guests arrive from Browning, they must either show a verified medical doctor’s letter with the name and date of the visit or a document from the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command stating that the person is allowed to exit the reservation.
Gooldy said guests showed him such travel permits, but the tribe’s information officer Jim McNeely said it was not true and these forms did not exist.
“The Blackfeet Tribe is currently investigating this matter and will keep the public informed,” McNeely said in a statement on Wednesday.
Gooldy said his policy applies to all states with COVID-19 quarantine orders.
“Every time there is a lockdown in the US from anywhere, we publish it up here and they don’t get a stay,” Gooldy said. “As if we had Californian guests here when their state was initially banned. And they weren’t allowed to stay here at Wingate in Great Falls. But neither was I called a racist.”
When the Kickingwoman family told Kickingwoman that Kevin would have an operation the next day, Sharen said the clerk asked for evidence, and Kevin emailed the manager with a doctor’s letter. Gooldy said the doctor’s note did not include the patient’s name or visiting time, but rather that his agent made him aware of the situation and checked her in.
The family checked into the hotel for about 30 minutes but decided to leave the hotel and stay elsewhere.
More:As COVID-19 spreads, Blackfeet Nation gathers to protect elders and preserve culture
Sharen said her mother, who made the reservation, hadn’t received a refund by Wednesday afternoon, but Gooldy said the family had been reimbursed $ 72.96.
“I definitely don’t want to stay in a place that doesn’t support the indigenous people,” Sharen tweeted Tuesday. “The Great Falls economy is literally fueled by local communities. This is so mixed up.”
Gooldy said the hotel policies are in place for safety reasons and that he is following suggestions made by the Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD).
“I was advised by the borough health department that if we have to, as a private company, we can place any kind of restriction on the safety and sanctity of the people who are there,” he said.
CCHD issued a statement stating, “CCHD Health Officer Trisha Gardner remembers speaking with the manager a few months ago. Companies have the right to apply stricter COVID-19 safeguards, but should refer to their own Contact legal counsel. CCHD did not help. ” in developing this specific policy (rejecting guests depending on where they live). “
The Blackfeet Nation reported 153 active COVID-19 cases on the reservation on Tuesday. Missoula County had a total of 749 active cases that day. In Cascade County, where the hotel is located, there were 939 active cases as of Tuesday.
Wingate owns over 100 properties worldwide. A company representative said Gooldy’s policy was a local, not a corporate decision.
“Our core values require everyone to be included and welcomed, and we oppose racism and discrimination of any kind. Although this is a franchise location, we take these allegations seriously and are investigating with the hotel and its administration Team, “a representative from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts said in a statement.
D-Great Falls Rep Barbara Bessette said she stayed at the Wingate Hotel in Helena for pleasure, business and legislative work. She denounced the policy of the Great Falls Hotel.
“While caution is certainly needed in this unprecedented health crisis, discrimination is never acceptable,” she said. “Unfortunately, incidents like this happen every day in Great Falls. Many go unnoticed, and it is important to stand up, speak out, and shed light on these injustices. Everyone should be welcomed and safe in our city.”
More:Blackfeet Nation pays all members $ 500 in COVID-19 relief
When Sharen’s Facebook and Twitter posts about the incident amassed online traffic, commentators wrote that they had heard of similar incidents at Wingate.
Three months ago, a woman by the screen name Hannah BC left a Google rating for the hotel and said, “Would rate 0 if possible. Wouldn’t allow Native American families to book a room. They decline because all natives with COVID- 19 are infected! “
Larry Gooldy, general manager of the hotel, responded to the review.
“Well, let’s deal with reality. … If this hotel says we won’t take a guest who shouldn’t travel, I wonder why that is. Could it be that you’re not supposed to travel the way you are are a risk of infection … I was wondering … well it doesn’t matter as I didn’t put the restriction in place, but neither will I allow a person to bully their way into a hotel and pose a risk of infection if you are it’s not supposed to be The article has been forwarded to Browning BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and will be followed up at this point. For others who might want to try. Please read and understand your travel restrictions. I run a hotel and am not here, to educate you on what to do. “
Gooldy confirmed that he had contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“I faxed them the information they asked for at the time because the person decided to write a review saying we are racist and sit there and basically be on the side of the hotel arguing that you are under a lockdown. You are not following your own guidelines on what to do and you are not traveling, and you are here in Great Falls and requesting a room from a hotel. Why is that? ”he said Grandstand.
While Gooldy was speaking to the Tribune, two girls approached the front desk where he was working to buy items. As they left Gooldy said to the reporter:
“So let me ask you something, two people there, where are they from?”
When the reporter replied that she did not know, he said, “What, but what are you? What is your race?”
When she said again that she didn’t know, he replied that the girls were “Indians, not from Browning and not in quarantine, but still in my hotel.”
“So, am I doing, or is this hotel doing some racism?” he asked.
Nora Mabie covers indigenous communities for the Great Falls Tribune. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Facebook @NoraMabieJournalist or on Twitter @NoraMabie.
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