Indian Health Services(IHS)
To understand how Sioux San came about, we first need to know how Indian Health Services (IHS) began. The Indian Health Service (IHS) is a federal health program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. IHS is an agency that operates within the US Department of Health and Human Services. The US Constitution, along with numerous treaties between the US federal government and sovereign American Indian tribal nations established a trust responsibility that requires the government to provide certain services to Native Americans. Healthcare is one of the services included in the United States’ trust responsibility.
Previously, American Indian healthcare was overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as provided in the Snyder Act of 1921. Seven years later, the BIA began contracting healthcare services through the Public Health Service and continued to do so for approximately 30 years thereafter. In 1955, Congress removed Native American health services from the Department of Interior and placed it under the Department of Health and Human Services. With this placement, the Indian Health Service came into fruition.
The History of Sioux San
The Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota was once a boarding school and then it became a sanitarium. It is a very sad and tragic history. Many people have died on at Sioux San and there are still many remains unknown.
1898- A boarding school was constructed in Rapid City for Native American children so that they could learn how to read, write, and learn more about English culture. It was called the Rapid City Indian School or School of the Hills due to the close vicinity of The Black Hills. Families were forced to send their children off to boarding school. Members of the Sioux, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Arapaho, Crow, and Flathead tribes were forced into the government institution to be taught the white man’s way of life. Abuse, neglect, and death were prominent.
Allegedly, some of these children were mistreated when they tried to run away and others were outright neglected and buried right there on the premises of the school. Remains of the children have been found but the exact number is still indefinite and the names are still being compiled. The boarding school was eventually closed in 1933.
1933- The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in South Dakota used the facility for a federally funded work relief program. Unable to meet their obligations in the face of drastically falling prices, many farmers were forced to default on their debt payments. Banks foreclosed in turn, but many failed. Banks and farmers went down together in spite of desperate efforts to save themselves.
To enroll in the CCC, a man had to be between the ages of 18 and 25, be unmarried, and come from a family on relief. Exceptions were made only in the cases of veterans, all of whom were eligible if on relief, and of the so called local experienced men.
1939- A few years later that due to the wide spread epidemic of tuberculosis that hit the country, a hospital was opened specifically for Native Americans which was known as the Sioux Sanitarium. Treatment for TB patients was very crude and experimental. Most often resulted in a horrible death. Most patients died there in the hospital. For the patients that had no close relatives, they were said to be buried on the Sioux San site. In 1943 the antibiotic for TB was discovered so the Sioux Sanitarium closed its doors in about the 1960s.
In 1955, the Indian Health Service (IHS) took administrative jurisdiction over Sioux San. The hospital building was later remodeled and became the Rapid City Indian Health Service Hospital. The years following Congress appropriated funds for the pilot IHS Clinic in Rapid City, SD.
In the 2000’s the many patient health issues arose so a couple different health boards were created to assist to address the issues of care for those eligible. In the recent years to come, IHS investigates quality of care concerns regarding Sioux San and decides to close inpatient and emergency services around 2017.
Sioux San has a long history and to many is known as a sacred site due to the live lost at the site. Sioux San will always be a sensitive subject and continued prayers will be given to all affected by the history.
Additional Links and Resources
- Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors (MOA) Resources
- Life at the Rapid City Indian Boarding School – Scott Riney
- Children Who Passed Away at the Indian Boarding School
- The History of Sioux Sanitarium as a Segregated Tuberculosis Clinic – Kibbe Conti
- The Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands: Where Did It All Go? – Heather Dawn Thompson
- Rapid City Churches: Nearly 200 Acres Purchased “For Religious Purposes” – Heather Dawn Thompson
- West Middle School & Sioux Addition Housing – Heather Dawn Thompson
- Winyan – The Women: Decades of Rejected Efforts by the Native American Community to Utilize the RCIS Lands – Karin Eagle and Heather Dawn Thompson
- Black Hills Knowledge Network Online News Archive
- Indian Health Service
- Department of Health and Human Services