SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A lawyer for a Native American man who claims the letters KKK were carved into his stomach during surgery has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the South Dakota hospital where the operation took place, the hospital's board of directors and others.
YouTube videos featuring 69-year-old Vern Traversie, a Lakota man who lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation, went viral in Native American communities earlier this year. In them, Traversie talks about being mistreated at the hospital and shows his abdomen. Though he himself is blind, Traversie says he was told by others that the scars left after his heart surgery form the letters.
A May rally in support of Traversie drew hundreds of people, many of whom said his story exemplifies the racism Native Americans experience in Rapid City. But others say they can't make out the letters, including police who investigated his allegations and hospital officials. No criminal charges have been filed in the case.
Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer for Traversie, filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in South Dakota against Rapid City Regional Hospital, its board of directors, physicians and TRS Surg Assist Inc. The lawsuit alleges a civil rights violation based on race and cites the scarring from Traversie's double-bypass surgery done in August 2011 as evidence. It seeks a jury trial.
A hospital spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.
Iron Eyes declined to talk about the lawsuit Tuesday. The day before, he said he couldn't talk about it until he first spoke with Traversie. When The Associated Press contacted Traversie on Monday, he said he wasn't aware of the lawsuit filed on his behalf.
"I think the Native people have been fighting racial hatred for many years in South Dakota, but you know, it's not all the people that are hateful toward Native Americans," said Traversie, who recently had another heart surgery in Bismarck, N.D. "We have a good segment of our society — white society — in South Dakota that are Christian people and they get along good with the Native Americans. In my instance, I believe I'm dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, and that's a small minority."
Iron Eyes, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Cody Hall, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which Traversie belongs to, organized the May rally in an effort to bring attention to what they say is continued mistreatment of Native American people.
While Traversie's story spurred the protest, many Native Americans who attended referred to broken treaties, unsolved murders and incarceration rates among Native Americans as their reasons for showing up. They included Dennis Banks, who helped found the American Indian Movement in the late 1960s to protest the U.S. government's treatment of Indians and demand the government honor its treaties with Indian tribes.
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said Tuesday that his office would release information in the "near future" about its investigation.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
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5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
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6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
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7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
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8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
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9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
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10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
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11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
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12. Late nights mornings
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13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
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14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
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15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
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16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
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17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
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18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
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19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
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20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
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21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
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22. Claudia Jordan: ....
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23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
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24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
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25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
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