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Sioux City Younkers to close as prospects dim for its parent company

SIOUX CITY -- After more than seven decades in Sioux City, it appears Younkers department store likely will close its doors for good this summer.

The only two bids for Younkers' Wisconsin-based parent company, Bon-Ton Inc., as part of a bankruptcy auction were liquidators, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Barring a last-minute reprieve, the storied retail chain seems destined to shut down all of its operations.

Younkers has noticed its Sioux City employees, the city and state that its Southern Hills Mall close will shut down beginning June 5, costing 84 employees their jobs.

Losing Younkers will be a major blow to the indoor shopping center, where the department store has served as one of its anchors since the mall opened in 1980.

Younkers has had a presence in the Sioux City market since 1947 when it acquired the Davidson Brothers Co. department store downtown. Davidson Brothers origins date back to 1881 when Russian immigrant Ben Davidson moved to Sioux City and began selling wares out of his home. Two of his brothers eventually also migrated to the states and joined the business and helped it grow.

For 22 years, after the Younkers sale, the combined downtown store operated as Younkers-Davidson before the latter name was dropped in 1969.

Younkers operated two stores in Sioux City from 1980 until 2006 when it shuttered its downtown store at Fourth and Pierce streets. HOM Furniture now occupies the space.

While it's now owned by out-of-state investors, Younkers also has Iowa roots. The department store was founded in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1856 by Polish immigrant brothers Lipman, Samuel and Marcus Younker. The company, which was headquartered in Des Moines, was sold to Bon-Ton in the late 1990s.

Bon-Ton, whose brands also include Boston, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Bergner's, and Herberger's, had hoped the financially-troubled company could be saved by a joint bid by several mall owners. That group included the owner of the Southern Hills Mall, Washington Prime Group. However, the deal fell through after a federal judge barred Bon-Ton from paying the investor group a $500,000 fee as compensation for its due diligence costs.

Proceeds from the bankruptcy auction will be used to repay Bon-Ton’s creditors, according to the State Journal. Once the company selects a winning bidder and the proposed deal is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, the liquidator with the winning bid can begin selling the inventory, store leases, fixtures and intellectual property.

Company-wide, Bon-Ton employs more than 20,000 people across 24 states.

Younkers' imminent departure will leave Sears as Southern Hill Mall's last original anchor. Target, which left the mall after building a standalone store in the nearby Sunnybrook Plaza, was replaced by JCPenney, which previously had a store downtown.

GALLAGHER: Omaha Tribal tie stretches 4,700 miles, to Berlin and back

MACY, Nebraska -- Francis La Flesche, the first Native American anthropologist, was commissioned by a museum in Germany 120 years ago to collect and catalog items showing aspects of life and culture among the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska.

His remarkable work endures today and, in part, returned to the Omaha Reservation this week as Elisabeth Seyerl, representing the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Humboldt Forum, met and interviewed a number of La Flesche's descendants, forging a connection between Berlin and the Nebraska Indian Community College in Macy, an institution that has taught from works of La Flesche for years.

Professor of Omaha Tribal History Wynema Morris, for example, learned this week that blue and green were the colors used in the war shirts for Omaha warriors, a detail preserved by La Flesche in his 1898 work for the exhibit in Berlin, parts of which have shown off and on throughout the decades.

Francis La Flesche, who was born in 1857 on the Omaha Reservation, had provided a picture of the uniform with his collection and wrote, "Ha-u-non-zhin or War Shirt. The color of the War Shirt was always blue or green. The design used in the decoration, formally embroidered in porcupine quills which have been lately superseded by beads, always referred to the object seen by the wearer in his vision, in the present instance it is the Bear represented by its foot. A fringe of hair can only be added to the War Shirt by the consent of the warrior friends of the owner, each strand standing for one of their war honors."

Nearly all of the 60 or so artifacts La Flesche collected here in the late 1890s will be shown in an exhibit bearing his name, an exhibit that opens in 2020 in Berlin. Each artifact has a description provided by La Flesche, as well as an introduction that detailed the history of the Omaha people.

The artifacts varied from clothing to weapons to kids' games to tools to ceremonial pieces.

"It's special as it is so well documented, plus he was an Omaha and an anthropologist," Seyerl said. "He was an insider in this culture."

Pierre Merrick, an Omaha Tribal member from Macy and a grandson of La Flesche, conveyed his respect for Seyerl's work and shared how proud the Omaha people are when it comes to their culture, traditions and spirituality.

"I didn't know some of these things he (Francis La Flesche) collected and had preserved," said Merrick, 58. "It made me think about the thoughts Francis had for the generations to come. Today, because of his efforts and this college, parts of our heritage are being preserved. Francis must have had a lot of thought and prayer for those of us alive today."

This guide to the Omaha Nation's past will help shape future discussions and teachings, Merrick and Morris agreed. The discussion, according to Seyerl, will go both ways as an outgrowth of the La Flesche exhibit in Berlin will involve a connection between the Humboldt Forum and the Nebraska Indian Community College in Macy, a school that stands not far from where La Flesche was buried.

Only three of the 60 or so artifacts were lost in the 12 decades since La Flesche compiled his important work. Those items, according to Seyerl, were lost when the original exhibit was relocated outside Berlin during World War II.

Merrick invited Seyerl to attend a sweat lodge ceremony on Wednesday at his brother's home in nearby Rosalie, Nebraska. Unfortunately, Seyerl couldn't commit as her travel plans had her heading back overseas at that time. Merrick left the invitation open for his guest, another bridge between cultures.

"This discovery, our relationship with a museum in Germany is a total surprise," he concluded. "I am comforted in knowing that our things will be cared for and respected."

The exhibit, "Francis La Flesche," is set to open in 2020, a featured exhibit for the Berlin Ethnological Museum within the Humboldt Forum, a place, through separated by more than 4,700 miles, maintains a bond with the Omaha Nation.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Younkers employee Mavis Klein sorting through clothing at the company's Southern Hills Mall store. According to reports, the store, along with all of Bon-Ton Inc.'s other stores, are set to shutter by June 5.

Sioux County Jail to comply with Iowa's new 'sanctuary city' immigration law


ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- The Sioux County Sheriff's Office will start complying with detention orders from federal immigration officials seeking to deport people who entered the country illegally.

Starting July 1, the sheriff's office will hold suspects for up to 48 hours beyond the time they otherwise would be released from jail, upon request by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

In consultation with Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle, Sheriff Dan Altena said he decided to change the jail policy to comply with a new state law, which imposes financial sanctions against cities and counties that backers say are providing sanctuary to potentially illegal immigrants.

Senate File 481, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, requires law enforcement agencies to not only comply with ICE detainer requests, but also prohibits local governments from discouraging their enforcement officers or others from activities related to enforcing immigration laws.

A local group of conservative who had fought for years to end what they called Sioux County's status as a "sanctuary" county declared victory Tuesday with the announcement from the sheriff's office.

“This is a policy that Sioux County should have revisited months — if not years ago,” Sioux County Conservatives communications director Jacob Hall said in a statement. "ICE detainer requests require no extra law enforcement work. The requests only ask one law enforcement agency to hold someone already in custody for another law enforcement agency. Our neighboring counties honor these requests and it is a relief that Sioux County will return to the days of common sense policing.”

The Sioux County Sheriff's office points out the county jail always detains inmates in connection to state crimes, as well as after a judge has determined probable cause existed that such an inmate was subject to deportation. Prior to 2014, the jail also prolonged an inmate’s detention for up to 48 hours after ICE asked the jail do so upon receiving a valid request.

In 2014, however, the jail stopped extending detentions, based solely on a detainer request, to avoid potential legal liability for violating the inmate's constitutional rights, according to a joint news release from the county sheriff and attorney. At the time, courts began holding that an ICE detainer request, without a judge's consent, did not authorize jails to extend an inmate’s detention, and that jails could be liable for violating an inmate’s Fourth Amendment rights, even if the jail was acting at the request of ICE.

Proponents said the new law, which takes effect July 1, said most local law enforcement officials already comply with detainer requests and cooperate with the federal authorities but there are a few that don't. Specifically, Republican sponsors said Iowa City and Johnson County have tread close to the line, making the new mandate necessary. 

Under the law, offending local entities could be denied state funds for up to 90 days, including road-use tax funds, state property tax replacements, tuition replacement, flood mitigation projects, community college funding and Iowa Economic Development Authority grants.

Journal Des Moines Bureau reporter Rod Boshart contributed to this story.