Hoeven: Spirit Lake child protection meeting openGRAND FORKS — 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., and tribal officials confirmed.
By: Chuck Haga, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — 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., and tribal officials confirmed.
Hoeven, who for months has urged the bureau and tribal officials to make “transparency” a priority in their work, spoke by telephone Tuesday with Spirit Lake Chairman Roger Yankton, spokesman Don Canton said.
The meeting is to begin at 10 a.m. today at the Spirit Lake Casino and Resort near Fort Totten.
Also Tuesday, Hoeven said he met with Sally Jewell, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Ken Salazar as interior secretary, and asked her to be involved in efforts to address child protective services issues at Spirit Lake.
If Jewell is confirmed as secretary, “She needs to work with senior BIA officials and tribal leaders to give the community assurance that concerns about children on the reservation are being addressed,” Hoeven said in a statement issued by his office.
“She also needs to ensure there are adequate law enforcement and BIA investigators in all tribal communities.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is an agency within the Department of the Interior.
Participants in today’s meeting 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; and Darren Cruzan, deputy director of the bureau’s office of justice services.
Hoeven and other members of the state’s congressional delegation had pressed the Interior Department to arrange such a meeting, and the department agreed Feb. 7 to schedule 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.
Representatives of the senators will monitor the meeting, according to their offices.
Darren Walkingeagle, the tribe’s chief administrative officer, said the progress report will be made by BIA officials and likely would conclude by noon. Yankton and other tribal officials “will be there but won’t be making any presentations or comments,” he said.
The BIA 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.
A federal official who has filed 12 “mandated reports” of suspected child abuse at Spirit Lake alleged in his most recent report that little progress has been made since he started citing cases more than eight months ago.