"U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Indian Health Service, met this week with tribal leaders from an eight-state region. IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux attended the meetings, but a spokesman for her office said it was not Roubideaux' decision to close the meeting.
An official from Health and Human Services said the meeting was closed at the request of tribal leaders. It's unfortunate that the reticence of some tribal leaders prevailed. It's also unfortunate that HHS and IHS officials didn't do more to convince tribal leaders of the value of open meetings.
Merle St. Claire, tribal chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said public input about problems at IHS is needed.
He accused federal officials of paying lip service to tribal complaints, and said they would have accomplished more for Native people if the meetings had been opened to the public.
"They're jumping through hoops to make it look like they're doing something," he said. "Tribal members, non-tribal members, and the press should have been involved."
Indian tribes are sovereign nations that aren't obligated to comply with federal open meeting laws. But we can't help but wonder if federal officials had their own reasons for shutting out the media. Tribal leaders likely shared a long list of complaints about the quality of health care for Native Americans.
We won't call the closed meetings an effort to cover that up, but it certainly does nothing to reassure tribal members or the broader public that the problems are being adequately addressed."
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Editorial: Journal shut out of tribal meeting
(The Rapid City Journal 3/25)
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