RAPID CITY –The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously upheld a United States District Court decision affirming the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board (GPTLHB) is a “tribal organization”.
For the second time, the Eighth Circuit upheld the decision of the United States District Court in Rapid City, which found that the GPTLHB is a “tribal organization” under federal law because it is “an entity ‘controlled, sanctioned, or chartered’ by tribal governments.”
“The Eighth Circuit has decided unanimously that the federal court in Rapid City was correct,” said Jerilyn Church, CEO of GPTLHB. “This is a continuation of longstanding legal authority in both federal court and in the South Dakota Supreme Court that tribal organizations do not lose their tribal sovereign status or their tribal character merely because they are also incorporated as a nonprofit corporation.”
Specifically, the District Court held in its original decision that “the Health Board is an entity organized under South Dakota law controlled by 17 separate federally recognized tribes.” The Health Board was therefore allowed to contract the services previously provided by the Indian Health Service to the Rapid City Service Unit at the Sioux San medical facility.
Since that decision, the Health Board now operates the health clinic on the Sioux San campus, under the name the Oyate Health Center. The Oyate Health Center will soon begin providing services and programs at an additional satellite location on LaCrosse Street in Rapid City. The Health Board acquired the new location on the north side of Rapid City to better serve the Native American population.
The federal court previously found that, for example, the Little Wound School and the Loneman School retained their tribal sovereign status even though they were also incorporated as nonprofit corporations in the State of South Dakota. The South Dakota Supreme Court also ruled similarly years ago for the St. Francis Indian School in a case entitled Sage v. Sicangu Oyate Ho.
“We hope this puts to rest the misinformation that has been circulated that the Health Board is not a tribal organization under federal law, as has been shown in a long line of cases upholding that rule of law, including one involving the Health Board itself,” said GPTLHB Communications Director Brandon Ecoffey. “We are happy to see this litigation end. We look forward to further focusing our efforts on improving health outcomes for tribal-citizens living in Pennington County and in tribal communities across the region,” he added.
Established in 1986, the GPTLHB represents tribal communities in the surrounding four-state region of South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Through public health practices and the formation of tribal partnerships, it works to improve the health of the American Indian peoples through health support, health care advocacy, and direct-patient care at the Oyate Health Center.
Serving as a liaison between the Great Plains Tribes and the various Health and Human Services divisions including the Great Plains Area Indian Health Service, GPTLHB works to reduce health disparities and improve the health and wellness of the American Indian people.