Doctors carved ‘KKK’ on man’s belly during surgery

It could be akin to those cases in which believers see the face of the Virgin Mary in a taco shell or a tree trunk, but a Native American lawyer in South Dakota doesn’t think so: He has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a man who says surgeons carved the initials KKK into his stomach during heart surgery.

The patient, 69-year-old Lakota Indian Vern Traversie, lives on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. He is blind, but his friends and family members tell him that his stomach is now emblazoned with a racial slur.

Videos of Traversie showing his abdomen and talking about his treatment have gone viral in Indian communities. In the videos, Traversie says he was scarred because of his race.

American Indians say the case demonstrates generations-long discrimination. Hundreds of people attended a May rally on Traversie’s behalf, saying his story exemplifies the racism faced by Indians in Rapid City.

But other people — including hospital officials and police who investigated — say they can’t make out the letters. No criminal charges have been filed

On Monday, Chase Iron Eyes, a lawyer for Traversie, filed suit against the South Dakota hospital where the operation took place, its board and others.

The suit seeks a jury trial on allegations that Traversie’s civil rights were violated on the basis of his race, citing as evidence the scarring resulting from his August 2011 double-bypass surgery.

When Traversie was contacted Monday by the Associated Press, he said he wasn’t aware of the suit, adding, “I think the native people have been fighting racial hatred for many years in South Dakota, but you know, it’s not all the people that are hateful toward Native Americans.

“We have a good segment of our society — white society — in South Dakota that are Christian people and they get along good with the Native Americans. In my instance, I believe I’m dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, and that’s a small minority.”

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