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Published July 17 2013

Spirit Lake leadership remains unsettled

FORT TOTTEN, N.D. – Roger Yankton Sr. returned briefly as chairman of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe on Wednesday, sanctioned by a Tribal Court order, but opponents obtained an emergency injunction from an appeals court that once again declared him out of the office he was elected to in 2011.

Yankton was sworn in as chairman at 10 a.m. in a brief ceremony closed to the media. It began with the circulation of the Tribal Court order issued Tuesday affirming Yankton’s claim to the chairmanship. It concluded with drums and singers performing an honor song as dozens of tribe members, including many members of Yankton’s extended family, lined up to congratulate him.

But the Tribal Council had met earlier Wednesday and voted to renew the tribe’s contract with the Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals and to appeal the Tribal Court’s order regarding Yankton.

The appeals court responded almost immediately, issuing a writ staying the Tribal Court’s order and directing that “any action contemplated by the order of July 16 … shall be prohibited until further hearing and order of this court,” effectively restoring Leander “Russ” McDonald to the chairmanship.

Until Wednesday, there had been no process of appeal from the Tribal Court because Yankton had not renewed a contract with the appeals court last year.