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Health Board Hosts Tribal and Federal Officials

Rapid City: The Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board welcomed tribal and federal leaders to Rapid City last week in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Indian Health Service.

Secretary of HHS Xavier Becerra, Deputy Director Andrea Palm, and IHS Director Roselyn Tso, along with HHS Agency leadership, were in Rapid City for three days of meetings with tribal leaders who are members of the Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee (STAC) and the Direct Service Tribal Advisory Committee (DSTAC). Both committees help guide federal officials in developing and implementing policies impacting tribal citizens.

Health Board CEO Jerilyn Church, IHS Director Roslyn Tso, and HHS Secretary Javier Becerra.

On the morning of September 12, the Health Board facilitated an intimate and personal meeting between Secretary Becerra and representatives from 15 tribal nations on the Great Plains at the Oyate Health Center. After the meeting, the secretary briefly toured the new facility and addressed the staff.

Secretary Becerra commented on the positive feelings the staff and building brought to his visit. He praised the work of those at the Oyate Health Center and encouraged staff to stay with the course with the vision going forward.

The decision to host the meetings in Rapid City was in response to the urging of Cheyenne River Sioux Chairman Ryman LeBeau, who felt the Great Plains was the best option to have the meetings on the heels of the historic legal ruling in Rosebud v. United States. LeBeau is also the Chairman of the GPTLHB’s Board of Directors.

In 2016, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the Indian Health Service, arguing that the federal government failed to uphold its promise to provide healthcare as promised in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The courts ruled that the language of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 places a significant obligation on the federal government to provide competent “physician-led healthcare” to tribal-citizens.

LeBeau’s sentiment that the federal government needs to focus on increasing funding for healthcare infrastructure on the Great Plains, along with calls for tribes to have greater access to their healthcare data, were some of the themes permeating throughout the week.

The Health Board also hosted a cultural night for the more than 80 tribal leaders who were present—the culture night featured songs from Health Board employee Gabrielle Knife, traditional flute music by Trevor Church, a performance by singer Jay LeBeau and grass-dancer Misun Mills, as well as a presentation on traditional foods from the perspective of Arlo and Lisa Iron Cloud. Additionally, those present were treated to a meal provided by Oyul Fusion, a new startup created by Health Board employees Kahomy and Mali Souksavath.    

Culture night hosted by GPTLHB at the Dahl Fine Arts Center

“It was an incredible experience and opportunity for tribal leaders to share their expectations of what they expect the federal government to do to uphold its trust and treaty responsibilities to provide healthcare to tribes,” said Health Board CEO Jerilyn Church. “The culture night provided a unique perspective of plains culture, and all those who attended left with an appreciation for the talents of our young people who performed there,” she added.