By Holly Meyer
Vern Traversie, a legally blind member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, alleges that he was scarred with the abbreviation associated with the Ku Klux Klan during open-heart surgery at Regional Hospital in August 2011. An online video in which Traversie talks about the scars recently went viral among the Native American community.
In protest of Traversie’s alleged treatment, about 300 Native American demonstrators, led by American Indian Movement activist Dennis Banks, marched with police escort down Fifth Street on Monday from a rally in Memorial Park to another in the parking lot of the hospital.
“We can’t let this day go by without getting some answers from this hospital,” said Banks to the crowd assembled at the edge of the hospital’s parking lot. “It can’t be that way.”
By Patti Jo King
Traversie, a blind, 68 year old, who underwent double bypass heart surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital (RCRH) on August 26, 2011, was left with a bizarre pattern of wounds on his abdomen, well below and on the lower left and right sides of his surgical wound.
Those who have personally seen the wounds describe them as horrific–claiming they resemble deep burns in the shape of three ‘K’s.’ According to Cheyenne River tribal member Cody Hall, a friend of Traversie’s, the wounds resemble brandings.
“This looks like a hate crime,” Hall, who organized the rally, said in a phone interview with Indian Country Today Media Network. Hall said the point of the rally was to raise awareness of the many incidences of underlying racism against Native people that have occurred in Rapid City over the years. The group also wants to support Traversie in his struggle to deal with this recent incidence.
A YouTube video featuring 69-year-old Vern Traversie, a Lakota man who lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation, has gone viral in Native American communities. In it, Traversie shows a photo of his abdomen. Though he himself is blind, Traversie says he was told by others that the scars left after his heart surgery make out the hateful letters, and he is outraged.
The problem is, not everyone sees it. Like those spotting the Madonna in a water stain, Traversie’s advocates are staunch believers. Those who aren’t include police who investigated his allegations and hospital officials.
Rapid City police say they conducted an investigation but found no evidence of a crime. Craig Saunders, a cardiologist at Barnabas Hospital in Newark, N.J., said incision marks can take many different shapes, depending on where the doctor needs to get into the body. Saunders, who did not operate on Traversie, said surgical tape also can leave scarring and lesions depend on the make-up of the person’s body.
Vern Traversie Rally For Justice (May 21, 2012)
Comment: We still don't know if Traversie was intentionally "branded." Or if the haphazard cuts were supposed to spell something.
But I thought surgery was supposed to involve one or two neat incisions. My question is how a patient gets dozens of cuts over his torso. Seems to me someone is guilty of incompetence if not malfeasance.
For more on the subject, see Indians Rally for "KKK" Victim and Lakota Man Branded with "KKK"?