Charmaine White Face in her home in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

Charmaine White Face: Divide and conquer for Indian people all over again

The Tribes and all of us got played

The Tribes: Oglala, Cheyenne River, and Rosebud Sioux Tribes, and all the rest of us, got played big time by Jerrilyn Church and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board. How? It’s all in the name.

If you replace “Tribal Chairmen’s” with “Indian Health Service” then it’s easy to understand. Jerrilyn Church works for the Great Plains Indian Health Service Health Board. The Tribal Chairmen have nothing to do with it. That was the gist of my editorial last week, only it was in legal terms.

It was a smooth game of divide and conquer using the words “self-determination.”

And it worked. Thank goodness, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe came to their senses right away and cared enough about their tribal members living in Rapid City and the Black Hills area so that they rescinded their resolution of support for this divide and conquer tactic. Otherwise, the Sioux San Health Facility would now be under the hands of Mrs. Church, and more than 70 employees would be gone including all the doctors. Who would be left to treat the patients? Think about it. That was the plan to be carried out in February. Thank you Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council for saving us all!

The main entrance to the Sioux San Hospital, an Indian Health Service facility in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

But it’s still not done yet. If the Cheyenne River and Oglala Sioux Tribal Councils DON’T rescind their resolutions, then this divide and conquer tactic by our old, original enemy, the U.S.A., will still succeed to implode Sioux San Health Facility.

So listen up, people of Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Reservations, don’t let your Tribal Councils and Executive Committees continue to be the blindfolded ducks led around by Jerrilyn Church to hurt your relatives in Rapid City. Tell your Council Representatives and Executive Committee members to immediately rescind their Resolutions to 638 Contract the Sioux San Health Facility.

The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen have nothing to do with this! But when it fails, and it will because it’s made to, then the Tribes will be blamed. All this time, IHS is behind this whole manipulation and the final date is May 29th. Yes, May 29th. By the time this is published, there will only be 7 days left before the Contract is signed: IHS to IHS, not to the Tribes.

So why would some of us continue to want Sioux San under IHS they do horrible shenanigans like this? Because it is still the responsibility of the US government according to the 1868 Treaty to provide health care, and the Treaty is still legal and viable. But how do we fight actions like this?

First of all by sticking together, by not letting anybody divide us. We are not urban and reservation. We are all members of the same nation. Just because some of our members have to live off the reservation, the original POW camp, they do so for good reasons: jobs, housing, and the ability to provide for themselves and live, being kicked off their own land by the US government such as happened with the Pine Ridge Bombing Range.


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Contact Zumila Wobaga (Charmaine White Face) is an Oglala elder (72), writer and professional organizer. She can be reached at

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