indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Tim Giago: Indian health care a national tragedy
Monday, April 21, 2008
Filed Under: Opinion

Mycole James Ferguson and Leah Page will never grow up to find their potential in life. Both infants were stillborn one week apart on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence on this vast Indian reservation. It is to the shame of America that its indigenous populations are at the bottom of the ladder when it comes to adequate prenatal health care.

The families of Mycole and Leah are still suffering from the loss of their children. And yet week after week, month after month and year after year, the names of stillborn Native American infants will be listed on the obituary pages of local newspapers.

Sharon Begley wrote in Newsweek Magazine that, “In international comparisons of health care, the infant mortality rate is a crucial indicator of a nation’s standing, and the United States’ position at No. 28, with seven per 1,000 live births – worse than Portugal, Greece, the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and 23 other nations not exactly known for cutting-edge medical science – is a tragedy and an embarrassment.”

Most Americans believe that the United States has the best medical care in the world, but that is clearly not the case. One has to wonder that if America rates number 28 in the world in infant mortality rates, how do the poor and uninsured rate or the Native Americans on the Indian reservations rate? There is a gap so wide that it might as well separate the poor and the Native Americans from the rest of America by an ocean’s width.

In a letter last week to the Senate and House Budget Committee, Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) wrote, “The Contract Health Services Program of the Indian Health Service has an unmet need of over $1 billion dollars. This program allows for medical care and urgent health care services to be purchased when the Indian Health Service or tribal health facilities are not able to provide it. This is the program that has given rise in Indian country to the saying, “Don’t get sick after June,” because it is common for the Indian Health Service to run out of funding for Contract Health Services after June.”

Sen. Johnson said, “I have worked with my colleagues to correct President Bush’s budget proposal for the Indian Health Service which grossly neglects the needs of Indian country.” Sen. Johnson is a member of the Indian Affairs Committee.

Among the very poor Indian tribes in America there is a crisis in health care and let me be very clear about that. Diabetes, Type 2, is epidemic. The infant mortality rate is staggering. The average life expectancy is lower on Indian reservations than in any other area of America. On many reservations from the Navajo Nation to the Pine Ridge Reservation, deaths by cancer are starting to reach epidemic proportions. Death by heart disease has never been higher and it is still climbing.

And we were considered wards of the United States government? I think we were better off when we were considered the enemies because we at least had the opportunity of taking care of our own health problems. The benevolent eye of big brother looking over our shoulders has been more of a curse than a blessing.

The hardworking doctors and nurses of the Indian Health Service are not to blame. They can do only so much with the money they are allocated each year. And it seems that every year senators like Tim Johnson and Congress women like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) have to fight tooth and nail to squeeze out every single dollar. And oftentimes it is a losing battle for them, but the real losers are the Indian people. Earmarks? Why not?

Indian nations gave up millions of acres of land in exchange for the right to an education and adequate health care. These two provisions are a part of nearly every treaty signed between the United States of America and the Indian nations. It is not welfare the US is providing, but an obligation in fulfillment of treaty rights.

Dr. Leroy Clark is one of the doctors at the Sioux San Indian Hospital in Rapid City, SD. He is Native American and he talked about some of the things the hospital and staff is trying to do for their patients with little money, but with a lot of enthusiasm. And there is no finer bunch of people than you will find staffing any hospital in any city. Most of the staff at the Sioux San is Native American and they are kind, gentle and genuinely concerned for their patients and that is a big plus when one is in poor health.

If America can spend $1 billion dollars a day fighting a war in Iraq, surely it can find the compassion to spend an equal amount so that babies like Mycole and Leah will have a chance to be born into this world. Prenatal care on the Indian reservations should not be so strapped for money that babies are dying because of it.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He can be reached at najournalist@msn.com.

More Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: CBC goes after Cherokee Nation (4/14)
Tim Giago: Thirty years and 1,560 columns later... (4/7)
Tim Giago: Bury My Hertz at Wounded Knee (3/31)
Tim Giago: Indians lost in race relations debate (3/24)
Tim Giago: Disenfranchising the Oglala Lakota people (3/10)
Tim Giago: Paying tribute to Harold Iron Shield (2/27)
Tim Giago: No celebrating at Pine Ridge Reservation (2/25)
Tim Giago: Apology of no use for Native Americans (2/18)
Tim Giago: The education of Jerry Reynolds (2/11)
Tim Giago: In honor of Carole Anne Heart (2/4)
Tim Giago: Claiming Indian status to get ahead (1/28)
Tim Giago: Wounded Knee book a must read (1/21)
Tim Giago: Sen. Barack Obama and the 'R-Word' (1/14)
Tim Giago: The medicine of Michael Haney (1/7)



Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribal college geologist tackles uranium mine (1/30)
James Giago Davies: Let's hurry up and hate the Muslim people (1/30)
Luis Alejo: Apologize to the Chumash Tribe for 'hurtful' remarks (1/30)
Mark Anthony Rolo: Declaration of war against Keystone Pipeline (1/30)
Senate passes bill to approve controversial Keystone XL Pipeline (1/30)
DOI signs land buy-back cooperative agreements with two tribes (1/30)
Company claims harassment after racial incident at hockey game (1/30)
Quapaw Tribe interested in cultivating marijuana for medical uses (1/30)
Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes declare war on methamphetamine (1/30)
Lawmakers introduce bill to allow Miami Nation to revoke charter (1/30)
Chairman of Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe resigns after seven years (1/30)
Another guilty conviction and indictment for Chippewa Cree Tribe (1/30)
Warm Springs Tribes play host to unmanned drone test grounds (1/30)
Eastern Cherokees still working to improve dangerous highway (1/30)
Key lawmakers remain opposed to Yucca Mountain nuclear site (1/30)
Kootenai Tribe: The truth about the regulation of Indian gaming (1/30)
Mike Hoeft: Bingo games brought Oneida Nation together again (1/30)
Menominee Nation won't give up on off-reservation gaming plan (1/30)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community approves casino market study (1/30)
Seminole Tribe wins preliminary approval for New Jersey gaming (1/30)
Native Sun News: Alcohol a common factor in Rapid City murders (1/29)
Ivan Star: Ignoring alcoholism leads to destruction of the Lakota (1/29)
John Barrasso: Empowering Indian Country in the GOP Congress (1/29)
Criminal charges possible over mistreatment of Indian students (1/29)
Seneca Nation doesn't foresee taking action on legal marijuana (1/29)
Elderly member of Colville Tribes seriously injured in hit and run (1/29)
Fifteen charged over theft of Yakama Nation scholarship money (1/29)
Judge orders self-proclaimed 'shaman' back to custody in Texas (1/29)
Nevada City Rancheria objects to leasing of land to another tribe (1/29)
Mississippi Choctaws to hold grand opening for new $55M hospital (1/29)
Opinion: Celebrate the Native origin of the Seattle Seahawks logo (1/29)
First Nations Experience to grow with $6M from San Manuel Band (1/29)
Governor won't rethink Menominee Nation off-reservation casino (1/29)
Cayuga Nation back in court to defend Class II gaming operation (1/29)
Mohegan Tribe reports increase in revenue at gaming enterprise (1/29)
Gaming machines at non-Indian tracks stir controversy in Idaho (1/29)
Native Sun News: Tribes ask Obama to deny Keystone XL permit (1/28)
Native Sun News: Native youth take stand against Keystone bid (1/28)
Tara Houska: Respect treaties and reject Keystone XL Pipeline (1/28)
Mark Trahant: Obama administration steps up for environment (1/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds first meeting & hearing (1/28)
House committee won't restore Indian and Alaska Native panel (1/28)
Opinion: Affordable Care Act offers behavorial health services (1/28)
Sami Jo Difuntorum: Support needed for Indian housing update (1/28)
Albert Bender: Stop glorification of Indian killer Andrew Jackson (1/28)
Amanda Blackhorse: Navajo leader defends racist NFL mascot (1/28)
Megan Red Shirt-Shaw: Our kids should be able to go anywhere (1/28)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.