Indianz.Com > News > Charmaine White Face: Health care remains our treaty right
Charmaine White Face in her home in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today
Gilbert v. Weahkee Dismissed
Wednesday, December 9, 2020

For those not familiar with Gilbert v. Weahkee, here is a very brief summary.

The U.S. Indian Health Service under the direction of Michael Weahkee entered into a Public Law (P.L.) 93-638 contract for the management of the Sioux San IHS facility in Rapid City, South Dakota, with a non-profit corporation. The Sioux San serves 28,000 patients from 305 tribes. All of these patients live in Rapid City or the nearby area. The contract was and is a clear violation of P.L. 93-638, a federal law, as a federal agency can only enter into such a contract with a Tribe or a Tribal Organization.

The non-profit corporation on the contract is NOT a Tribe or a Tribal Organization and is under the jurisdiction of the state of South Dakota which is known for its anti-American Indian stance. Little wonder as all of western South Dakota is STILL Indian land under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Health care is also a right under that Treaty.

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

In April, 2018, the headlines in the local Rapid City Journal said that the three nearest Tribes were going to take over the Sioux San Hospital. Many of us were very alarmed because we knew that more than fifty (50) years ago, it was the Rapid City American Indian Community who lobbied Congress and were able to have the Sioux San established as an IHS Hospital.

Prior to that time, in the mid-1960s, the Rapid City American Indian Community had NO health care as the Reservation IHS Hospitals would not accept patients living in Rapid City even though they were tribal members and Rapid City is on treaty land.

The Tribes on the reservations did not help their own members to have the Sioux San made into a hospital after the federal government no longer needed it as a national tuberculosis sanitarium. So why were the three nearest Tribes doing this now?

When more information came out that it was a non-profit corporation established by IHS in the state of South Dakota that was receiving the multi-million dollar contract from IHS, then those people who knew the law, P.L. 93-638, knew that this contract was unlawful and illegal. They also knew that the local Tribes were being used by IHS as a front for this illegal activity.

Until the contract was a reality, no one could stop it in federal court. Donna M. Gilbert, Julie Mohney, and the author filed in federal court in SD Western District asking for an injunction of this illegal contract. Patrick Lee, Esq., was our pro bono attorney. Eventually the case was dismissed.

No surprise. Remember, this is South Dakota even when it is a federal court. An appeal was filed in the Eighth Circuit Appellate Court in St. Louis, Missouri.

On December 4, 2020, an electronic notice from the Eighth Circuit said: “Dismissal of plaintiffs’ action challenging a tribal organization’s contract with the Indian Health Service affirmed without comment.”

What this shows is that now the 8th Circuit Appellate Court is participating in illegal, criminal activity. Our evidence was overwhelming that this non-profit corporation, the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board, is a non-profit corporation. Even the South Dakota Judge, Jeffrey Viken, in his last response to our motion to the 8th Circuit Appellate Court, admitted that this was a non-profit corporation. The law is clear that it must be a Tribe or Tribal Organization not a non-profit corporation.

What is the use of having laws if they can be violated by a federal agency AND the federal courts? Or is this the same-ole same-ole by the federal government that the U. S. Constitution and the law doesn’t matter if it only affects American Indians?

We need an excellent lawyer to help us go on to the Supreme Court. We also need someplace in the federal system to be able to file criminal charges against IHS, the local federal court, and the 8th Circuit Appellate Court as they are ALL violating a federal law, P.L. 93-638.

And when the Winter Holy Day is here, we need to continue our prayers for the good health of all the people.

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
Gilbert v. Weahkee (December 8, 2020)

Charmaine White Face or Zumila Wobaga, (73) is an Oglala Tituwan Oceti Sakowin great-grandmother, scientist, writer, and organizer. She can be reached at