The Indian Health Service is asking the public about potential changes at the Sioux San Hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Kevin Abourezk

NEPA and the Sioux San

UPDATE: Rapid City IHS Health Center Supplemental Environmental Assessment

When the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was created in 1970, its purpose was so that federal agencies could not just do a project without considering other factors. For example, a federal agency could not build a road through a burial ground or cemetery without considering other factors such as the effect on the families of the deceased.

Prior to NEPA, federal agencies did whatever projects they wished with no interest for the effects on people, or polluting the water or air, destroying archaeological treasures, or exterminating birds or animals. Now, NEPA requires all federal agencies to consider these and many other long-term, far- reaching effects of a project prior to beginning the project.

In the case of the Sioux San Hospital and grounds, NEPA requires the Indian Health Service to notify all the people concerned about Sioux San and the grounds if they plan on doing any demolition or changes to the buildings or grounds. To many of us whose grandparents or great-grandparents were at the Sioux San when it was the Rapid City Indian School, the dormitories where they slept and the grounds where they walked have a special meaning.

Charmaine White Face in her home in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Richie Richards / Native Sun News Today

For many of us who were in-house patients, whether in the National Tuberculosis Sanitarium, or later as patients in the General Hospital, there are other meanings.

Because it has the word “Environmental’ in its title, most people think that NEPA is just for the protection of National Parks, forests, and swamps. But that is not true.

Anytime there is a federal project, land, or funds being used for a project with physical impacts, the people have a right to voice their concerns and NEPA provides for that. It is a law. Legal citations include Public Law 91-190, or 42 U.S.C.: Public Health and Welfare, Section 4321 et set; or 83 Stat. 852.

There have been rumors going around that ALL the buildings are going to be demolished on the Sioux San campus except for those that have been sold. The only two historical buildings to be saved, according to the IHS Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA), are the barn and the root cellar. So, did you have a chance to say something? Like the majority of us, probably not...until now.

In the NEPA process, there is something called “scoping” when the public is supposed to be allowed to voice their concerns. For the Sioux San and its grounds, the requirements of NEPA are mandated.


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Charmaine White Face or Zumila Wobaga, (72) is an Oglala Tituwan Oceti Sakowin great-grandmother, scientist, writer, and organizer. She can be reached at

Indian Health Service - Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment
Rapid City IHS Health Center Supplemental Environmental Assessment

The following notice, date December 26, 27 and 28, 2019, announces proposed modifications at the Sioux San Campus in Rapid City, South Dakota. The Indian Health Service is proposing to demolish most of the buildings on the campus and build a new health care facility on the site.

Notice of Availability Rapid City IHS Health Center Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment

The Great Plains Area Indian Health Service (IHS) is proposing modifications to its facility at the Sioux San Campus in Rapid City, SD to improve healthcare services provided to multiple tribes in the region. The IHS proposes to remove many of the existing buildings at their Sioux San facility and in their place construct a new health care facility approximately 203,500 square feet in size (the Project).

In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the IHS has prepared the Draft Rapid City IHS Health Center Supplemental Environmental Assessment. This document evaluates the potential impacts on the human and natural environment of the proposed Project and the No Action Alternative.

The IHS is announcing the availability of this Draft Supplemental EA and the Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for public review and comment. IHS will be accepting comments on the Draft Supplemental EA and Draft FONSI until January 31, 2020. The IHS will use the comments it receives to make a decision on which alternative to select.

Written comments can be submitted to:
Dayton Newbrough, Facility Engineer
IHS Sioux San Facility
3200 Canyon Lake Drive
Rapid City, SD, 57702
or to

Copies of the Draft Supplemental EA and Draft FONSI are available for review at: Rapid City Public Library, Downtown Branch, 610 Quincy Street

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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