A Lakota man, who is a blind elderly member and resident of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, was admitted to a hospital in South Dakota for heart surgery and 14 days later, learned that he was branded with a "KKK" on his torso.
Because he is blind, the Native American was unaware of the markings. 69 year old Vern Traversie says that the only hospital staff member to tell him about the marking was a nurse who was attending him. Paul Canning at Care2.com reports that Traversie said that this surgery was more painful than another one he had, but when he asked for pain medication after surgery, a staff member told him shut his mouth.
“I had a confrontation with a male nurse while I was in intensive care,” Traversie said. “I was in so much pain, I begged him for pain medication. He told me to shut my F-ing mouth or he’d shut it for me. I didn’t provoke him. I didn’t disrespect him.
“I did talk to his supervisor,” he continued. “She said she’d take care of it and even take disciplinary action if necessary.”
According to Traversie, the supervisor told him that she could not say much about it nor would she identify herself. But her ethics led her to advise him to have pictures taken of the markings:
“‘My conscience won’t let me be,’ she said to me. She said, ‘It’s bothered me for days. Something was done to you, and I believe it was wrong. I can’t sleep; I keep thinking about what they did to you.’”
“She said she wouldn’t identify herself or testify for me,” he said. “She told me she couldn’t endanger herself or her family.”
His doctor saw the markings and asked why KKK was written and burned into his flesh. Joyce Anderson, a retired surgical nurse, examined the pictures of his wounds and remarked, “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.”
Traversie said told Indian Country, “You can see the surgery sutures, and they’re clean. But those three letters, two good-sized Ks and one smaller one off to the side, had to be made with some sharp knife or heated instrument. It’s like they branded me.”
He called what someone apparently did to him in the hospital a hate crime and now has an attorney. Tribal police, the FBI, and his pastor all have copies of the pictures taken of his chest and back, but Traversie had to wait seven months before a Rapid City attorney took action on his case.
Traversie says that no legal authorities investigated what happened to him, that he received no support, not even emotionally, and some people do not treat Native Americans with respect.
“They made no effort to investigate,” he insisted, “ and I got no support, not even emotional support. Native Americans are not treated with respect. They think they don’t have to take any blame, and they don’t apologize to us.
“We need to get the evil out, or we have to stop sending our people there,” he said, voice trembling. “In the name of God and Jesus Christ, I’m telling the truth. This happened to me.”
In a video report (embedded below), Traversie said he refuses to go back to that hospital, but other places are too far. He began to cry that he not only has the marks on his flesh for the rest of his life, but also in his spirit, adding that “nobody wants to go to heaven looking all beat up and stuff. People have respect for their elders, but this Ku Klux Klan hate us. Because I’m helpless, they took advantage of me.”