Every time I hear of a hate crime committed in the U.S. I’m as angered as I am frustrated. Even after 2 centuries of civil rights activism and legislation, occasionally an incident occurs that just smacks of blatant racism and disrespect. The Trayvon Martin case in Florida has captured the nation’s attention recently, but not because the alleged perpetrator is a self-proclaimed White supremacist. The lackluster reaction from the local police is what aggravated the victim’s family. But, there are other more glaring cases of racist activity, often at the hands of people we’re supposed to trust. One such recent event comes out of Rapid City, South Dakota.
In August 2011, Vernon Traversie, a 68-year-old member and resident of South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, suffered a heart attack while at the Heart Doctors office in Rapid City. They immediately sent him a few blocks away to Rapid City Regional Hospital for emergency surgery. Traversie, who is blind, said, “I was supposed to have emergency surgery on my heart, but they (the hospital) had scheduling problems. Every night they would prep me for surgery which went on for four or five days. Every night they would shave my chest and stomach and wouldn’t feed me.”
Traversie said he didn’t even know what was done to him until a RCRH employee came into his room and advised him to have pictures taken of his torso as soon as he got home. He says she told him that she could not testify for him, but that her conscience got the better of her and she didn’t agree with what they did to him.
Last Real Indians, a site dedicated to raising awareness of Native American issues, asked Joyce Anderson, a retired surgical nurse from Baptist Hospital in Little Rock, AR, to view a photograph of Traversie’s injuries. “It appears the area under the incision was done with a scalpel for drainage of the incision,” Anderson says. “The other wounds seem to be necrotic, meaning the tissue is dead. This could indicate the wounds were burned into his skin.”
Traversie has no resources for an attorney but did say council member, Ryman Lebeau, and Tribal Chairman Kevin Keckler are trying to get an attorney for him. “Those Ks are causing me pain still,” he adds, noting that “not all White people are like this.” Still, he emphasizes, “And, I have to live with that on my stomach the rest of my life.”
Here is a video Traversie made detailing his experiences at the hospital.
This Facebook page also has been established to help push for a legal resolution to the matter.
Since this appears to be a hate crime, a federal inquiry may be warranted, which means the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder could be drawn into the matter – just as with the Trayvon Martin case. Since Traversie also is blind and 68, charges for abuse of a disabled and elderly individual also could apply. All the legislation and affirmative action programs won’t eliminate bigotry and racial prejudice. But, in the current environment, no one has to tolerate it anymore. Native Americans and Hispanics, especially, have been too conciliatory over the years. Whenever incidents like this occur, we can’t just get upset – we need to get mad!