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Forum Communications, Published September 12 2012

Hoeven, nominee for Indian Affairs talk

GRAND FORKS – Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., met Wednesday with Kevin Washburn, President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the Interior Department, pressing him “to be fully involved in the effort to address allegations of abuse and neglect at Spirit Lake.”

Hoeven, who presided at a meeting with tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials Friday at Spirit Lake, also urged Washburn to see “that efforts to address problems there are conducted in an open and transparent way,” and that he keep the senator apprised of developments.

A team from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is a part of the Interior Department, is in Spirit Lake this week to review the tribe’s progress on a corrective action plan developed earlier this year by the BIA.

Hoeven met Friday with Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton and tribal social services professionals “to make sure they are addressing allegations of child abuse and neglect, staffing deficiencies and inadequate progress on the BIA’s corrective action plan,” according to a statement from the senator’s office.

The review this week could result in the BIA voiding Spirit Lake’s authority under the Indian Self Determination Act to administer social services on the reservation.

According to the statement, Hoeven has worked with BIA and Indian Health Service officials since April “to make sure the tribe is working to remedy flaws in its administration of social service programs, specifically with regard to removing children from unsafe environments, securing background checks for placing children in foster care and developing procedures to ensure foster homes are safe.”