ST. LOUIS, MO –The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri handed down an important victory today for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the tribes of the Great Plains area ruling that the United States has a duty to provide “competent, physician-led healthcare” to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and its members.
Today, the Eighth Circuit affirmed US District Judge Roberto Lange’s prior ruling in favor of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. In that original decision, Judge Lange of Pierre, SD ruled that Article 13 of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie required that the U.S. government would “furnish annually to the Indians a physician,” and “that such appropriations shall be made… as will be sufficient to employ such persons.”
The ruling upholds and expands the interpretation of Article 13 of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty, taking the phrase shall provide a physician and saying it now means, in 2021 that the US government is responsible under that provision to provide competent, physician led health care, and the US has a trust obligation under the Treaty to do so. The federal government has long claimed in court filings that there is no general trust obligation to provide health care, and that is true under US law, but the one exception is that a trust obligation will arise when there is a treaty provision.
On April 29, 1868, representatives of the United States Government came to terms with the Oceti Sakowin on the details of the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. The treaty was negotiated from a position of strength by the tribes and legally bound the federal government to uphold many promises.
Article XIII of the Treaty, states:
The US government argued that the clause should be read literally and that the United States exceeds its duty under the Treaty because it employs more than one physician at the Rosebud IHS Hospital. Judge Lange ruled against the federal government on this issue, saying: