Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
The day after hundreds of American Indians marched and rallied in Rapid City for justice for Vern Traversie I called Tom Poor Bear, who is the vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
Indian Health Service it's time to call in the FBI
Poor Bear was one of the American Indians who entered into the Rapid City Regional Hospital to meet with hospital officials, while hundreds remained outside.
I asked Poor Bear What happened during the meeting?
he said quickly and firmly. Then there was complete silence.
"Nothing?" I inquired. The silence surprised me.
Poor Bear said one more time.
"You are a man of few words and get right to the point," I responded.
“I mean nothing! We did not even get a promise. White people usually make promises they don't keep,”
he responded. History bears him out on this.
“It was like 'case closed.' They would not talk to us about the case of this elder; so I walked out after ten minutes of nothing.”
Others who I spoke with about the meeting were just as frank about what happened during the meeting. Not one person in the American Indian delegation was happy with the outcome, because there were no answers, no promises and no progress.
The meeting was simply a courtesy meeting or a "shut-up" meeting. A shut up meeting is one that people have with you so in hopes they will shut up and they will never have to deal with you again.
It is difficult to shut up hundreds of American Indians. Especially those who were willing to take time off their jobs and go to Rapid City to march in the streets and rally outside the hospital to fight for justice for a blind Lakota elder who has been disrespected by the hospital.
American Indians know institutions are masterful at public relations. We know statements can be crafted to tell their side of the story that really tells the public absolutely nothing. These statements use all the right words that tell a whole lot about nothing.
The Rapid City Regional Hospital maintains an Indian Health Service 638 contract to treat American Indian patients for things that are more complicated than medical care that can be administered at Indian Health Services facilities in and around South Dakota.
Vern Traversie, a tribal citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, went to the Rapid City Regional Hospital for heart surgery, but a graphic photograph taken by a nurse upon his September return home indicates the procedures went far beyond normal medical care.
The pictures show three distinctive Ks - or KKK - on his abdomen.
Law enforcement and medical personnel have yet to satisfy Traversie and others with any follow up action against the hospital's staff. They maintain no one did anything wrong to Traversie.
Among the hundreds of American Indians who were in Rapid City, several came forward to tell their stories of mistreatment by the Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Since there are limited options for medical treatment in South Dakota, this particular case is disturbing because American Indians deserve to obtain medical attention in a professional and anxiety-free environment. Patients with medical conditions have a enough to worry about when they are ill. They should not have to worry about quality of care.
Given the Indian Health Service contract, which is a federal government contract, the federal government needs to investigate what happened to Mr. Traversie thoroughly by the FBI and the US Attorney's Office.
The hundreds of American Indians who marched and rallied in Rapid City deserve better than a whole a lot about nothing.
It is time for American Indians to be afforded more than a whole a lot about nothing.
updated 1:25 pm edt; posted May 24, 2012 10:30 am edt