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Patrick Springer, Published September 05 2012

Protecting Spirit Lake's Children: No word on cause of baby’s death

FARGO – An investigation into the July 7 death of a 2-month-old on the Spirit Lake Reservation continues.

Debra Kay Anderson-Dogskin of St. Michael died at her family’s home in what some of her relatives believe was a preventable death.

Great-aunts of the child say concerned family members had repeatedly asked authorities on and off the reservation to remove the child from the home, where they suspected the child could be neglected.

No intervention came, however, and family members blamed jurisdictional conflicts as the reason for what they view as tragic inaction.

“The FBI and BIA investigations continue,” Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota, said Wednesday, referring to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Although the autopsy has been completed, he added, “We are awaiting lab test results associated with the investigation.”

After the death was reported, critics seized upon it as another sign of gaps in child protection services at Spirit Lake, where the BIA has been working with the tribe to correct numerous deficiencies in social services.

Tribal officials have hired a new social services administrator and have said the tribe is working to resolve problems but have struggled with staff turnover and inadequate funding.

Meanwhile, almost two months after the death, the family continues to wait for an official determination of the cause, whether natural or the result of neglect.

“We’re still waiting, and we’re still frustrated,” said Patricia Anderson, the child’s great-aunt. “It’s very, very frustrating.”

Tribal social services officials placed the child’s two sisters, ages 7 and 2, in the home of a relative, she said.

“They’re in a good home, but they miss their mother,” Anderson said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522


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