Colorado Hospital Finally Admits to Cutting Lakota Elder’s Hair Without His Permission

Art Janis' family and AIM members outside of UCHealth Hospital in Aurora, Colo. on Nov. 9, 2023, seeking justice. (Photo/Courtesy Keith Janis)
Art Janis' family and AIM members outside of UCHealth Hospital in Aurora, Colo. on Nov. 9, 2023, seeking justice. (Photo/Courtesy Keith Janis)

The UC Health Hospital in Aurora, Colorado on Friday finally admitted that a hospital staff member cut the hair of a 65-year-old Lakota elder Arthur Janis, without his or his family’s permission.

The admission comes after two weeks of questioning by the Janis siblings and a week after  members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) protested on grounds of the hospital demanding answers.

Keith Janis, who spoke with Native News Online on Saturday said the hospital lied to him and his family since they began questioning the health facility about when, why and who cut their brother’s waist-length hair. They finally "fessed up" on Friday, according to Keith Janis.

Keith Janis said he filed a police report with the Aurora Police Department late last week. A detective was assigned to the case. The detective did not get far with the hospital staff initially and was told that he would need written permission by the Janis family before the staff could talk to him.

“So, he called and got legal authorization, a legal affidavit granting him authority to access any and all information pertaining to my brother Art since he’s been at the hospital,” Keith Janis said.

Related: Hospitalized Lakota Elder's Waist-length Hair Cut without His Permission; Family & AIM Demand Answers

Keith Janis granted the detective the legal authorization.

“The very next morning, Colorado University Hospital called and said that they finally confessed, They decided they weren't going to lie to us anymore. They, in fact, cut Art’s hair,” Keith Janis said. He was told hospital cut his brother's hair so that he would not get bed sores. So, they cut it and threw his hair away.

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Art Janis, who is a traditional Lakota, who does not believe in cutting his hair had worn his hair long since he was a child. A sister discovered Art's hair was cut short during a video call to discuss his ongoing treatment with UCHealth staff.

Art Janis has been under the care of UCHealth since he was flown from Rapids City, South Dakota in August. Art Janis was first admitted to care a hospital in Rapid City for abdominal pains caused by blood clots. The Rapid City hospital could not provide the adequate medical treatment, so Art Janis was sent to UCHealth.

While under the care of UCHealth, he experienced a heart attack and a stroke. The stroke prevented him from speaking and his siblings have been making medical deicsions on behalf of their brother.

Keith Janis, who lives in Kyle, South Dakota, wants to get back to Colorado early next week to be by his brother as the family decides the next steps to take, if any, against UCHealth.

"It's really hard to get things done here in South Dakota. I'm trying to actually raise money to get back to Colorado. I think people are having a really hard time, too," Keith Janis said.

On Saturday, November 18, 2023, Keith Janis started a GoFundMe account to raise funds for travel to do more investigative work related to Art Janis' hair being cut without his persmission.

UCHealth was named by U.S. News & World Report as the best hospital in Colorado for 2022-2023

About the Author: "Levi \"Calm Before the Storm\" Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert was awarded Best Column 2021 Native Media Award for the print\/online category by the Native American Journalists Association. He serves on the advisory board of the Multicultural Media Correspondents Association. He can be reached at"