RAPID CITY – The United States Supreme Court has ruled against a lawsuit challenging the sovereign right of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe to assume control of tribal healthcare in Rapid City.
“This is a victory over the misinformation that was being spread about the status of the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board as a “tribal organization” under federal law,” said Brandon Ecoffey, Communications Director for the Health Board. “This organization was formed by the 17 tribes of the Great Plains, not by the federal government. Federal law is so clear that the United States Department of Justice decided to not even file a brief in response to Donna Gilbert’s request to appeal. The Supreme Court agreed, and the matter is now laid to rest,” he added.
In 2019, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, opted to assume control of the Rapid City Service Unit using a federal law called the Indian Self-Determination Act (P.L. 93-638) first established in 1975. The law allowed both tribes and tribal organizations to contract services formerly provided by federal departments and agencies. The two tribes contracted with the Health Board to manage the service unit on their behalf and led to the opening of the Oyate Health Center.
“This is a win for tribal sovereignty against those who believe only the federal government is capable of providing health care and other services,” said Ecoffey. “We have shown that tribal-nations and their tribal organizations are just as capable of providing services to tribal members, and in many cases, even do a better job.”
The suit “thrown-out” by SCOTUS today, sought to prevent the two tribes from assuming control of the Rapid City service unit by asserting the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board was not a tribal organization. Several supporters of the Indian Health Service initially filed suit in federal court against the Indian Health Service, trying to stop the self-determination contract between the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board and Indian Health Service. After they lost in US District Court, they appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but lost at that level as well. The Supreme Court was the end of the appeals.
The finality of the Supreme Court’s decision today removes any doubt as to the legality of the Oyate Health Center and the rights of tribes to contract with the Great Plains Tribal Leaders’ Health Board.
“With this now behind us we are more committed than ever to continuing to improve healthcare for our people and learning to run our own institutions,” said Ecoffey.
The Health Board is an organization of eighteen tribal governments, who have joined together to improve health care, its board of directors is made up of the elected tribal leaders of these tribes.
*For Media Inquiries please contact Brandon Ecoffey at [email protected]