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Yankton reinstated as Spirit Lake chairman

FORT TOTTEN - Roger Yankton is back as the Spirit Lake Nation's chairman after winning an appeal at tribal court, tribal Secretary Nancy Green Robertson confirmed Tuesday.

Tribal members voted him out of office earlier this month following a successful recall petition. But he vowed then that he would challenge the validity of the petition.

He is expected to be sworn in today in Fort Totten while Leander "Russ" McDonald, the man tribal members picked to replace Yankton, will be sworn in as a member of the Tribal Council representing the Fort Totten District.

The vote on July 1 was 284-145 against the controversial Yankton, who has presided over a tumultuous period on the Spirit Lake Reservation, including allegations of abuse of power, corruption, intimidation and failure to pull the tribe out of a crisis in child protection.

Tension between Yankton's supporters and opponents were strong enough then that the Bureau of Indian Affairs posted 15 police officers at the meeting place, the Four Winds School, to keep the peace. Officers from other BIA jurisdictions were brought in.

McDonald, who lost to Yankton in the 2011 election for chairman, was briefly installed as chairman earlier this year by elders who claimed the right to oust a chairman of the council at a special general assembly. He later agreed with Yankton, however, that tribal law required a petition and recall assembly.