Update: Native American Allegedly Branded in Hate Crime

Update: Indian Country Today Media Network†has reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Health and Human Services have commenced an investigation into the alleged attack, as well as the South Dakota Attorney Generalís office as reported here.


The case of Vern Traversie, a blind and elderly Native America who alleges he was branded with “KKK,” is finally receiving official attention after two months of campaigning and petitions, including a Care2 one of nearly 9,000.

South Dakota’s State’s Attorney General, Marty Jackley, is today speaking and taking evidence at the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council.

This follows a Justice for Vern campaign march by hundreds of Native Americans in Rapid City, May 21 (see video).

Traversie says he left the hospital after surgery last September with the letters branded on his abdomen. In a moving video (below) he explained how an anonymous women in the hospital told him:

My conscience wonít let me be. Itís bothered me for days. Something was done to you, and I believe it was wrong. I canít sleep; I keep thinking about what they did to you.

The video was recorded after the FBI, local authorities and a local lawyer all failed to pursue investigating the case.

President Rodney Bordeaux of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe says that he is demanding:

∑ That the FBI and Rapid City Police publicly explain why no investigation into these events has been launched in the six months since Mr. Traversie reported them to law enforcement agencies;

∑ And that the Rapid City Regional Hospital seek an independent investigation into what went so tragically wrong during the hospitalization of Mr. Vern Traversie.

Native Americans see the case as one example of many of the hate crimes directed against them which go unrecorded and unrecognized.

Writing for Indian Country Today,†Lise Balk King explains that hundreds turned out for the march because Traversieís “cry for help and pitiful condition” was a catalyst:

His plight embodied the day-to-day strain of facing racism and the reaction of doubt that is so readily cast on ďIndians complaining again.Ē

Balk King points to an uncomprehending media reaction to Traversie’s case and speaks to Oglala Lakota Cheryl Cedar Face who laments, “The way the media covers Native issues makes it all seem like a big joke. Very rarely do I read something that conveys why people are upset or acknowledges that racism does exist.”

Balk King writes:

For those who live on the other side of the color line, every day can bring small indignities, strained interactions or frustrating stonewalls to disrupt the normal life flow from wake-up to sundown. It is an accepted but loathed part of living in the areas off of the Indian reservations in western South Dakota. But no place is this tension more keenly felt than in Rapid City.

Traversie was unable to attend the Rapid City march but said in a statement:

I am scarred for life, but I seek justice. I donít want any other Native American to be treated like I was by the medical professionals who I trusted to take care of me when I was vulnerable.

I am thankful that so many Native Americans and other people from all over the world have reached out to me to say that they support me. I am humbled by their compassion. I ask that all who say my name and fight for me do so in a good way, and in peace.

Sign the petition: ‘Investigate Vernon’s KKK Marks as Possible Hate Crime.’

Related stories:

Native American Says He Was Branded in Hospital Hate Crime

When the KKK Protests Westboro Church, Who Do You Root For

Klan Wizard Commemorative License Plates Coming to Mississippi

Picture courtesy of Justice For Vern Facebook page


Laura T.
Laura T4 years ago

happens all the time. ask any native American about the most recent hate crimes.

George E.
George Estudillo5 years ago

These are the people that use the bible to justify killing and maiming for the good of their God. When I was little I had a vision while in a Church in St. Michales, AZ and will never go into the house of the Devil. I saw the four beasts and they tried to carry me away. My brothers and sister Mary saved me by carrying me out of the church. I did not ask for the vision, it just came like a wall of water and damn near drowned me. If you think I make things up, I don't . Look at this world and those who say they believe in their respective Gods, they are just using fear to rule!

Susan Baker
Susan Baker5 years ago

Pure Evil!!! How can anyone justify doing this they must be really sick I hope they rot in hell!!!

Christine Stewart

This needs to be investigated and not ignored.

Maree Ann Peterson

That was truly a Hate Crime I didnt think the Stinkers KKK existed anymore shame on them they should have more respect, I forgot these morons dont know what that is, As for Vern I hope he gets some compensation for this terrible act! And hope you know who ends up in Jail!

timothy m.
timothy m5 years ago

Anyone who sees KKK here is looking for it.

Lauren B.

Yikes! Certainly there should have been an investigation, but I wonder why there wasn't? Were there other factors considered? What don't we know?

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

For example, girls were told they were having "appendectomies"; and some NEVER FOUND OUT THE TRUTH.
Shocking that this was going on in hospitals and under U.S. government auspices, AS LATE AS THE 1970s.
[Please go see the Cause article and Petition on Forced Sterilization.]

So, that this "KKK" carving was probably A BIG JOKE AMONG THE ENTIRE HOSPITAL STAFF, is not that "shocking" IN THIS SORT OF CONTEXT, is it?????!!!!!
They were COUNTING ON it being thought oh-so-clever by their COMMUNITY -- the Indians "don't count" in that community, even tho they may live there.
This is NOT just a FEW "criminals" or "crazy, sick people".

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

See the other Cause article, about HUNDREDS OF AMERICAN WOMEN BEING STERILIZED BY DOCTORS IN HOSPITALS. The Majority of these were NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN {and even young girls!}.
These Sterilizations of Native American females were GENOCIDAL in intent; and do by any measure, CONSTITUTE GENOCIDE.
Please go see the Care2 Petition ASKING FOR AN APOLOGY. {A bit late!}

Put two and two together -- are these not THE SAME HOSPITALS, THE SAME DOCTORS AND STAFF, THE SAME MINDSET???
Just as parts of the American South, have not gotten over the Civil War and essentially would like to see People of Color as Second-Class..... {and cheap, obedient labor}.....
So parts of the former Western Frontier, have not gotten over the Indian Wars, even tho their side WON..... they want to see the Native Americans EXTERMINATED ENTIRELY, so we white people could take over THE LAND, OIL AND MINERAL WEALTH even more completely, with even less opposition.....
You are kidding yourselves if you think this is just a small, easily-dealt-with group of individuals.... they do in their minds and actions, REPRESENT their local communities.....their local schools and churches, and "respectable people" too......you have to BE THERE to realize this FACT.....

Anne Khan
Anne khan5 years ago

This has sickened me to the core. The f *****g b******s who did this to Vern are sick sick sick. Just what is their problem for goodness sake !!!!! The hospital staff that allowed this to happen are equally sick sick sick and should, in all truth, be investigated and sacked never to work with people again, but i doubt very very much that that will happen. Hand in hand with all their sick minded cronies shows the mentality of these thugs, whether they're law enforcement officials, hospital staff or ordinary citizens, all the same . . . .

I remind these thugs :-


This atrocity should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet and i wish Vern all the luck in the world that he gets the justice he needs.