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Chuck Haga, Published February 26 2013

Meeting at Spirit Lake on tribe’s child protection services efforts open to public

A meeting scheduled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide Spirit Lake Sioux leaders and members an update on efforts to improve the tribe’s child protection services will be open to the public, a spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., confirmed.

Hoeven, who for months has urged BIA and tribal officials to make “transparency” a priority in their work, spoke by telephone today with Spirit Lake Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton, who confirmed that the meeting would be open, spokesman Don Canton said.

The meeting is to begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort near Fort Totten, N.D.

Participants are to include Larry Roberts, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the Interior Department; Weldon Laudermilk, regional director for the BIA’s Great Plains Region; Sue Settles, chief of the BIA’s Division of Human Services; Darren Cruzan, deputy director of the bureau’s office of justice services, and tribal officials.

Hoeven and other members of the state’s congressional delegation had pressed Interior to arrange such a meeting, and Interior agreed on Feb. 7 to arrange a “town hall” gathering on the reservation.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and a member of the staff of Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., participated in the Feb. 7 meeting with Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at Interior.

“We have pressed them not only to use every legal and administrative measure in their jurisdiction to ensure the safety of children on the Spirit Lake Reservation, but also to be transparent and forthcoming with tribal members about what they’re doing,” the delegation said in a joint statement issued after the meeting with Washburn.

The BIA, a bureau within the Interior Department, took control of child protection services on the reservation Oct. 1 after months of turmoil and allegations of systemic failure resulting in what some called an epidemic of child abuse.