AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — An investigation is underway to determine who cut waist-length hair off a Native American man while he was undergoing medical treatment.

The family said they were shocked to see the elder’s hair gone, as the culture believes it has deep spiritual significance.

Arthur Janis is a member of the Independent Oglala Lakotah Nation. His friends and family led a procession to the lawn of UCHealth in Aurora on Thursday afternoon, demanding to know who cut off his hair.

“It wasn’t for an operation, somebody just cut his hair off,” Janis’ brother, Keith Janis, said.

Males’ hair is preserved for life

Janis told FOX31 his brother had hair down past his waist when he came to Aurora to be treated for blood clots in his abdominal area.

His family, who is from South Dakota, discovered on Nov. 3 that Janis’ hair had been chopped off. He had been in the hospital since early September.

“My sister called me, and she was holding back tears and she was very emotional,” Janis said.

Janis said traditional male members of the nation never cut their hair. It is preserved their entire life.

After a member dies, a lock of the hair is cut and used in ceremonies to remember loved ones. Members believe the hair has deep symbolism and strength.

“And we use that power at times like this, when times are hard, and they robbed him of that,” Oyuhpe Tokala Society member Reddog said.

UCHealth responds

Janis’ brother said he has been in two facilities: UCHealth in Aurora and a skilled nursing facility in Denver. They are not sure where his hair was cut.

A UCHealth spokesperson sent FOX31 a statement: “UCHealth and its nurses, physicians and staff members have deep respect for our patients and their individual beliefs and customs. We agree that a patient should be fully informed and should consent to any medical care, and that their culture must be honored. We are committed to working with family members to investigate any concerns and to help determine if an incident happened at one of our care locations.”

The family wants answers. But Janis has a hard time speaking, and it’s not clear if he can identify who cut it.

The family vows to fight until the deeply spiritual symbol is returned to its rightful owner.