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Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association
Leaders and representatives of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association pose with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland at a nation-to-nation meeting with the United States in Rapid City, South Dakota, on December 17, 2021. President Scott Herman, second fourth from left, is seen next to Secretary Haaland. Photo courtesy Rosebud Sioux Tribe
President Biden Honors Indian Health Care As Treaty Right
Monday, December 20, 2021

The following is the text of a December 20, 2021, press release from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, issued after the Biden administration declined to dispute a treaty rights victory won by the tribe.

Today, the Biden Administration decided to honor the decision of the 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals from August 25, 2021 that our 1868 Great Sioux Nation Treaty requires the United States to provide “competent physician led-health care.”

“The Rosebud Sioux Tribe case means that our 1868 Treaty mandates Indian Health Care, and under the Federal trust responsibility our Native Peoples are entitled to competent treaty and trust based health care. Our Indian patients can no longer be ignored, the United States must provide competent physician led-health care,” said President Scott Herman, Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

“Our Rosebud Sioux People have suffered with poor, negligent health care. One of our mothers gave birth on a bathroom floor, when medical staff did not attend to her labor. Other tribal members sat in a waiting room while they suffered heart attacks, and then the Indian Health Service closed our Emergency Room, forcing our people to drive 50 or more than 100 miles to get health care.”

“We thank President Biden for standing behind his policy to honor our Nation-to-Nation Relations, respect Tribal Sovereignty, our Treaties, and the Federal Trust Responsibility, and for sharing that direction with his Cabinet Secretaries.”

“We also want to especially thank Secretary Xavier Becerra, who has a long track record working with our Native Sovereign Nations when in Congress, when serving as the California Attorney General, and now that he is Secretary of Health and Human Services. We know that he is very personally dedicated to American health care and Native American health care, especially in this time of the National Public Health Emergency. Secretary Becerra has a strong contingent of Native health care advocates, at IHS and throughout the Department, and we thank them all.”

“Secretary Debra Haaland also took a strong interest in our case because, after all, she has received her health care from Indian Health Service and she plays a key role because the Indian Health Service receives its appropriations under the Interior Subcommittee. Her able lawyers at the Solicitor’s Office and her Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs also played key roles. She came to visit us in Rapid City on a Nation-to-Nation basis with our Great Plains tribes, and we had a chance to ask her directly to uphold our Treaty Rights, and she assured us that she fully understands our position.”

“We want to thank the White House Staff, and other agencies, that weighed in to uphold treaty rights, and last but not least, we thank Attorney General Merrick Garland for honoring fellow Cabinet Secretaries and not allowing bureaucratic inertia to override treaty rights.”

“We thank Senator Mike Rounds, who wrote to President Biden to support the treaty and statutory ‘duty’ of the Indian Health Service to provide competent health care services to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. We thank Senators Tina Smith, Ben Ray Luján, Elizabeth Warren, Catherine Cortez-Masto, and Bernie Sanders who wrote in support of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and America’s treaty and trust duties to provide ‘competent physician-led Indian Health Care.’

“We thank our Congressman, Dusty Johnson, and Representatives Sharice Davids, Tom Cole, Raul Grijalva, Don Young, Betty McCollum, Frank Pallone, Kai Kahele, and Doug LaMalfa who wrote to President Biden asking the Administration to honor Indian Health Care as a Treaty Right. They said, ‘we believe allowing the Eighth Circuit’s decision to stand [is] and important acknowledgement of our collective priority to uphold and honor the U.S. government’s treaty responsibilities to Native peoples.’”

“We thank Chairman Harold Frazier and the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board, National Indian Health Board, National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Gaming Association, National Association of Financial Officers, Association on American Indian Affairs, United South and Eastern Tribes, Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, All Pueblo Council of Governors, Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, the Oglala and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, and so many others who helped us in this quest to uphold our Treaty Rights so that our Native People can get competent health Care.”

“We thank our Rosebud Sioux People for their perseverance in the face of adversity as we work to honor our Treaties and our Nation-to-Nation Relations with the United States of America.”

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States (August 25, 2021)

Letters of Support in Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States
Members of Congress

Indian Country Organizations

Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association

President Scott Herman of Rosebud Sioux Tribe

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