Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Justice for Vern’ They Shouted for Miles

Story and photo by Evelyn Red Lodge

Rapid City, South Dakota — They gathered 1,500 strong in support of blind Lakota elder, Vernon Traversie, who claims he was a victim of a healthcare hate crime.

Native trills and drums could be heard from a mile away, and “justice for Vern” was shouted as the crowd took to the streets in protest of Rapid City Regional Hospital.

At least 300 of those made the protest march from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to RCRH — where Traversie explains in his YouTube video ( how he came to have three Ks embedded in his flesh after surgery.

Traversie told Last Real Indians last month that was not the only mistreatment he endured. He said, “I had a male nurse come over and tell me to shut my f****** mouth, because I asked for pain medication after my surgery.”

He then related, “I felt scared and humiliated. I couldn’t even move my arms. I felt helpless.”

Among the 1,500 that gathered at Memorial Park, original members of the American Indian Movement rallied for an FBI investigation into Traversie’s claims.

Controversial AIM founder, Dennis Banks, rallied, “40 years ago we said we will not tolerate this abuse, discrimination, and killings. Why is it that racism is so active here in western South Dakota?”

He continued, “40 years ago they began to shoot us at Mother Butler Center. We asked the police to find these people that were shooting at us. They said, ‘We don’t know who they are.’ The next day AIM leaders armed our people. After passing out shotguns and rifles the news media rushed out to MBC and within the hour the police called us and said we found the people who were shooting at you. They knew who was shooting at us.”

“Only when we rise up in anger and frustration do they wake up and do their job.”

“This police department in Rapid City said they investigated this heinous crime committed on Vern Traversie and said they found no evidence of a crime.”

“We send our children and elderly to Rapid City Regional. But, now we know we can no longer trust that hospital.”

“In a few years we will not be sending our people to Rapid City Regional (Hospital). At this very moment there are young men and women getting ready to do a feasibility study on building a multi-million-dollar hospital. We have the resources.”

But for now, the ugly head of racism and the KKK has risen up in Indian Country. This is Indian Country (treaty land).

Banks explained, “We wanted to find out where the KKK was in South Dakota. We found out they’re here. Their children are among us. Their children work in the police department and the hospital.”

“We’re hoping we can open up a dialogue that will bring some meaningful negotiations. I was reminded yesterday that $40 million of Indian money goes to that hospital (RCRH) every year. That must end. We have to investigate where all this money goes when all we see is abuse.”

“We’re going to call the shots from here on in.”

Traversie was not at the protest, but he did call to thank everyone for all the support and asked that the protest be peaceful.

LRI called Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender to inquire about remarks in a local paper about the protest. He explained that at the start of the 2.7 mile march, he witnessed “about a dozen teenage boys running into Fifth Street (to block traffic) which is completely illegal. That’s what we’re there for. This continued all the way up to the hospital.”

Once at the hospital, Allender claimed, “A number of guys went up to an officer and were screaming at him. I don’t know how they did that, because my throat would have been bleeding.”

He said, “Up at the hospital there were threats of storming the hospital and burning it down.”

He continued, “At the hospital’s request they had an area with shade trees where they wanted the people to be and brought out water and had a route to a restroom. But in those initial moments, it was unruly, because the group wanted to be at the (hospital) entrance.

In summary Allender said, “I saw this teetering on a disaster.”

However, no protestors were arrested.

Editorial Note:

After the initial Youtube video on Vern Traversie was released, Evelyn Red Lodge broke the Vern Traversie Story. Major sources CNN, & AP were the first we saw with momentary mentions of the video. Lastrealindians writer/journalist submitted a researched, carefully written piece based on interviews within hours of video release. Lastrealindians approved publication after personal knowledge of Vern’s wounds was substantiated.

On the day it was posted, April 25, 2012, received 17,621 unique visitors, and 32,017 pageviews. On April 26, 2012, we exceeded that number, jumping to over 45,000 pageviews. Within three days of posting the Vern Traversie story, had surpassed over 102,000 pageviews. Vern’s story was ‘liked’ over 10,000 times by Facebook users. Thank you to everyone who read Vern’s story and shared it with others, including other news and media organizations. Vern’s story isn’t over yet. We’ll continue to publish the truth, and bring you important hard-hitting news stories from Indian Country, as well as insight from the Native perspective. Props to Evelyn.

-Ruth Hopkins, Editor/Founding Writer, Lastrealindians