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Spirit Lake members angry with leaders, seek assembly

Tensions ran high as members of the Spirit Lake Nation gathered for a second meeting in two days Friday to debate the future of the tribe's leadership.

A group of tribal elders had voted Thursday to oust members of the Tribal Council, claiming authority to take such an action because the tribal government had not held a general assembly for several months. The tribe's constitution requires a monthly assembly.

Participants at Friday's meeting agreed to an emergency general assembly meeting for Sunday, though it was unclear whether tribal officials had called for an official meeting.

Nobody was answering phones at tribal headquarters Friday, and messages left on Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton Sr.'s cellphone were not answered.

Yankton and other members of the council were in South Dakota this week on business and were unavailable for comment, a spokeswoman for Yankton said Thursday.

Darren Walking Eagle, tribal administrator, reached by phone as he was returning to Spirit Lake Friday, said he was not aware of the meetings or the allegations made earlier this week by suspended Tribal Council member Clarice Brownshield.

Brownshield, reportedly suspended by Yankton last week, called a meeting in Fort Totten on Wednesday to accuse the chairman and Tribal Council of corruption. She distributed copies of documents that she said backed her claims. She said she had shared information with the FBI.

An FBI spokesman declined to confirm or deny that on Thursday, standard practice for the bureau.

Yankton made a brief appearance at Friday's meeting, but his response to pointed questions -- that the tribe's problems were being investigated -- did not appear to satisfy his critics.

One unnamed elder told the chairman, "We are being neglected as a tribe. Our children are being neglected. You as a person are responsible for all of these issues, but you are not around. The council is not around. You don't listen to us."