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Harold Frazier
Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, addresses U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen during a visit to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota on June 21, 2022. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
‘You promised us that you would honor the treaties’
Hiring at Indian Health Service at issue in letter to President Biden
Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The following is the text of a July 12, 2022, letter from Chairman Harold Frazier of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to President Joe Biden of the United States.

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Washington, DC 20500

Re: Appointment of Area Director for the Great Plains Region Dear President Biden,

We applaud your efforts in appointing Indigenous cabinet members at a national level, Indigenous leadership, voice and visibility must also be reflected in the direct services to our people. Those doing the moccasins on the ground work need to have a true understanding of the challenges faced by our people in order to adequately address them. Your commitment to both the nation-to-nation relationships and Indigenous people cannot be merely symbolic.

Recently, the tribal leadership met in Aberdeen, South Dakota to interview candidates for the Indian Health Service Regional Director. The Great Plains Region of the Indian Health Service has been without an Area Director for quite some time and we were happy that the process was finally going forward and we were eager to participate in the nation-to-nation dialogue which is vital to the success of our two peoples.

Unfortunately, yesterday I have been informed that you will not honor that decision. Mr. President, you promised us that you would honor the treaties. We are the ones that must live with the decisions that are being made and tens of thousands of lives are at risk. The healthcare provided by the Indian Health Service has been in decline and we were hopeful that our choice of an Oglala leading the Great Plains Area would bring our voices to address the failing trend.

Indian Health Service Letter – Great Plains Area Director – July 11, 2022
A July 11, 2022, letter informs tribal leaders that the Indian Health Service will continue to look for candidates to serve as Director for the Great Plains Area of the IHS. The decision comes after tribes in the region, which includes Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, interviewed candidates and supported a homegrown candidate for the leadership role.

Your decision to readvertise this position and not appoint our agreed upon choice has removed our hopes and voices from the nation-to-nation and returned us to the “boss farmer” days of doing what we are told on reservations. The failure to appoint a member of our nation to the position of Area Director of the Great Plains region after meeting with us is a waste of our time, both of our resources and dirty politics reminiscent of a different era I thought was behind us.

I am hoping that this is the work of underlings and you are unaware of the situation. I am now making you aware of this failure to honor the treaties in the nation-to-nation responsibility we both have. Mr. President, you made it very clear to the Indian nations that you would ask for our consent and not our “recommendation” when making decisions regarding our destiny. If the action of ignoring our mutual agreements in this matter continues you will have failed in that obligation.

I am informing you that it is our desire to hire our original selection for the position of Indian Health Service so that we can begin to address the healthcare challenges that face our nations. We do not wish to disenfranchise us from the decision-making process but if lies and dirty politics continue to rule the day then we have other efforts to afford our time.


Harold C. Frazier, Chairman
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe

Harold Frazier is serving his second consecutive term as chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, an Indian nation based in South Dakota. He also serves as president of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association. He previously served as chair and vice chair of his tribe and as an area vice president for the National Congress of American Indians. His Lakota name is Ta Hunska Luta (His Red Leggings).