As a country we have been mesmerized, sickened and disgusted by the shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. All eyes have been on this hate crime and emotions on both sides of the issue have run high.
But there are other stories out there, not so well publicized by the mainstream media. The most recent to come to light is the shocking mutilation of a 68-year-old blind man. His crime, it seems, is being a Native American living in South Dakota.
Vernon Traversie, a Lakota elder, suffered a heart attack last August and was taken to Rapid City Regional Hospital for emergency surgery. Upon his return home after a two-week stay, he found that three Ks had been carved or burned into his abdomen.
In a statement to Last Real Indians, Traversie said: “I was supposed to have emergency surgery on my heart, but they (the hospital) had scheduling problems. Every night they would prep me for surgery, which went on for four or five days. Every night they would shave my chest and stomach and wouldn’t feed me.”
It wasn’t until a hospital employee came to his room and told him to take pictures of his abdomen and chest immediately upon getting home that Traversie realized that something had been done to him. The woman who gave him the advice told him she couldn’t testify on his behalf but her conscience dictated that she had to let him know.
Joyce Anderson, a retired surgical nurse who worked for nine years on the heart team at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock Arkansas, viewed the photographs of Traversie’s injuries and said, “It appears the area under the incision was done with a scalpel for drainage of the incision. The other wounds seem to be necrotic, meaning the tissue is dead. This could indicate the wounds were burned into his skin.”
According to Traversie, local law enforcement has done nothing about the matter and a doctor at a nearby medical facility said she could not make any statements regarding his injuries. After seven months of non-action by his Rapid City attorney, Traversie posted this video Vern Traversie’s Video to gain attention for the crime committed against him.
This is just the latest in a long and ugly history of hate crimes against Native Americans in Rapid City. In May of 2010, 22-year-old Christopher Capps, was shot multiple times by Pennington County Sheriff’s Deputy David Olson. Capps was allegedly reaching into his pocket for his cell phone at the time. He was unarmed.
There is a huge divide between Indians and whites in Rapid City. This latest incident involving Mr. Traversie may have been the result of a backlash to the shooting of three police officers by a young Native American man, Daniel Tiger, last August 5. Tiger was stopped for a traffic violation and inexplicably opened fire on the officers, shooting them in the head. One of the officers died at the scene. Native Americans in the community all agree that there is no excuse for Tiger’s actions, which ultimately resulted in his death. But one must ask: if Mr. Traversie’s injuries were some kind of statement, then what does it say about the doctors and nurses who were charged to care for a man who had just suffered a heart attack? What does it say about a city where no one does anything about it? What does it say about a society that doesn’t bother to report it, except in the Indian press?