Based in Rockville, Md., the Indian Health Service, often referred to as I.H.S., was created to carry out the government’s treaty obligation to provide health care services to eligible American Indians and Alaskan Natives. The tribes agreed to exchange land and natural resources for health care and other services from the U.S. government as part of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.
The agency, which has 15,170 employees, most of whom work in the hospitals and clinics, was without permanent leadership until a few months into the pandemic. Rear Adm. Michael D. Weahkee, a member of the Zuni Tribe, was confirmed by the Senate in April after leading the agency on an interim basis since 2015. Mr. Weahkee declined to comment for this article.
The system consists of 26 hospitals, 56 health centers and 32 health stations. The hospitals range in size from four beds to 133. The Indian Health