Reports Conflict Over Spirit Lake's Child Protection Services Since BIA Takeover


On October 1, 2012, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) seized control of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation's child protection services, following allegations of rampant child abuse and rape on the Fort Totten Reservation in North Dakota, the tribe's insufficient efforts to properly investigate these cases and its failure to prosecute offenders.

While BIA officials report the federal and tribal systems are collaborating well and holding abusers accountable while safeguarding tribal children, not everyone is in agreement, reported inforum.com.

Thomas Sullivan, regional administrator of the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF), wrote in his 11th mandated report dated January 17 to Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney for North Dakota, and Sue Settles, human services chief in the BIA’s Office of Indian Services, as well as several top ACF officials, that he has “seen little that is substantial” to indicate changes have been made in response to his allegations of instances of child abuse and rape.

Molly McDonald, a former tribal judge, also told inforum.com that many cases involving children “are being overlooked” by the new BIA-run social services program. The Spirit Lake Tribal Social Services retains some responsibilities.

Among the notable changes the BIA has made, it increased staff at Fort Totten. Last month, it hired a child welfare specialist and social service assistant, and two additional child welfare specialists are anticipated to join the staff after background checks and clearance.

“I have complete confidence in the FBI in North Dakota and their ability to work cases here,” Purdon said. “The BIA law enforcement people are our partners, and I have a lot of respect for those people who put on the uniform and work on the reservations every day.”

“We have made progress in Indian Country,” he added. “Have we solved everything? No. But I’m proud of what we’ve done.”