Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed in Rapid City, South Dakota on Monday on behalf of Vern Traversie, a tribal citizen of the Cheyenne River Tribe, who alleges the Rapid City Regional Hospital marred his torso with the letters KKK.
Protest in support of Vern Traversie in front of
the Rapid City Regional Hospital
Traversie originally went to the Rapid City Regional Hospital for heart surgery last summer, but a graphic photograph taken by a nurse upon his return home indicates the procedures went far beyond normal medical care.
Now, Traversie, 69, has engaged the services of Attorney Chase Iron Eyes of Bismarck, North Dakota and American Indian law firm, Galanda Broadman, based in Seattle, Washington to bring the claim to the US District Court in Rapid City.
Rapid City Regional Hospital has a contract with Indian Health Service and provides services to hundreds of American Indians in South Dakota annually. Further, Rapid City Regional Hospital maintains its innocence in this case.
"Rapid City Regional Hospital is an organization of people who have dedicated our lives to healing others. We are deeply committed to providing excellent care to everyone, regardless of race,"
reads a portion of statement issued by the Rapid City Regional Hospital issued to the Native News Network in May of this year.
Traversie's story has gained national attention after a rally was staged in Rapid City in May at the Rapid City Regional Hospital. Hundreds of supporters rallied in support of justice for Traversie, including bringing Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement. Many protesters came forward to express worry about quality of care from hospitals like the Rapid City Regional Hospital, who contract for care of Indians through the Indian Health Services.
Iron Eyes told the Native News Network that he was not at liberty to discuss the case due to state law in South Dakota.
Traversie, who lives in elderly housing on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, and is blind from complications with diabetes, spoke via telephone with the Native News Network on Tuesday evening.
“This lawsuit is about civil rights and patient rights. This hospital serves a lot of Indians and I don't want them to suffer the same way I did. We need to be taken care of in the right way. We go to hospitals to be made whole and heal. I hope this lawsuit will encourage other Indians to stand up for our civil rights,”
“Native people believe when you do what they did to my body, you have done it to their soul. This has affected me psychologically; it has hurt my spirit, but I am now learning I have to become strong from it,”
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posted July 18, 2012 7:59 am edt