NCAI Calls for Immediate and Thorough Investigation of Access to Care for Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Members with COVID-19

Published on Oct 16, 2020

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is extremely troubled to learn Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members infected with COVID-19 are being sent from South Dakota more than seven hours away to Minnesota to access appropriate hospital care, at a time when South Dakota is reporting that almost 20 percent of the COVID-related deaths in the state have been Native people. While the State of South Dakota claims to have adequate bed capacity, Native patients are being diverted to other states.

“Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members should not be treated like second-class citizens at any time, especially when seeking care for an infectious disease that has already caused more than 2,000 deaths among Native people across the country,” says NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “Not only are Native people experiencing COVID-19 infections at higher rates than the national average, the lack of access to quality healthcare and the discrimination Native people face when attempting to access care is unfathomable. This severe imbalance in treatment is caused by centuries of the federal government avoiding its trust responsibility to American Indian and Alaska Native people, which has caused deep social, economic, and health disparities, resulting in an inadequate quality of life for many in tribal communities.”

NCAI stands with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the handling of these cases. NCAI also calls on the Indian Health Service and state officials to address the lack of access to adequate healthcare facilities and hospital bed capacity for American Indians and Alaska Natives residing in South Dakota.

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