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Step up to the plate, Rapid City



Now that the 93-638 takeover of the Sioux San by the Great Plains Tribal Health Board (GPTHB) has been scrapped by the Indian Health Service (IHS), where does the Rapid City Urban Indian community serviced by the Sioux San go from here?

A couple of things first: the GPTHB had plans to relocate the Sioux San east of Rapid City. The IHS pulled their support after much Rapid City Urban Indian community protest. The GPTHB still had plans to takeover the operation of the Sioux San anyway, under a 93-638 self determination compact, but after the Rosebud Sioux Tribe voted last Thursday, 14-0, to rescind their resolution supporting that takeover, IHS canceled their support of the Health Board that very afternoon.

What this entire conflict brought into the spotlight was no tribe has any right to determine our health care at the Rapid City Service Unit. You can’t even run your own hospitals correctly, you give us no say in tribal affairs, despite being enrolled members, so please stay out of our Rapid City lives. Rosebud deserves kudos for their heroic stance on the Rapid City Urban Indian community’s behalf, but Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River need to go fly some nice, sturdy box kites. We need your hand in our health care like the Titanic needed that iceberg. We are “the people served,” not you.

A community board needs to be formed, with the following guidelines. The board is elected from the Rapid City Unit service area, which is officially any resident of Pennington County. The board meets weekly, incurring as little expense as possible, and operating on a modest but reasonable stipend. The board has a Sioux San representative, empowered for this specific purpose, at every meeting. If any tribal official wants to sit in on the meeting, fine, but you have no say or power and you better bring pizza and donuts. Full disclosure of any meeting is made public in a legal newspaper. The entire operation errs on the side of transparency, not closed doors and secret negotiations and decisions. Get the donuts from Weimer’s in Sturgis; they are the best.

This board should insist on a consultation relationship with IHS on the scope, structure and operation of the new hospital. Our input into these decisions would be self-evidently necessary, were it not for tone deaf IHS bureaucracy. Now is the time to consider the types of ideas and input that might give Rapid City as fine a health care facility as any in the state. The funding and potential is there, it just has to be properly implemented, and that can’t happen if we don’t talk, and it will never happen if we give any tribe any say at all in any outcome.

(James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com)

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