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Witnesses Announced for Spirit Lake Congressional Hearing, Live Web Stream Available

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Kevin Cramer announced the witness list for the upcoming oversight hearing on child protection and the justice system on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. The U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs will hold the hearing at 2:00pm Eastern on Tuesday, June 24th in Washington, D.C. to address child welfare and justice system problems which have plagued Spirit Lake.

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Two panels of witnesses will provide testimony:

 Panel I:

 Mr. Michael S. Black

Director Bureau of Indian Affairs

U.S. Department of the Interior

Accompanied by:

Mr. Darren Cruzan

Director BIA-Office of Justice Services and Staff to be determined

BIA-Office of Indian Services

U.S. Department of the Interior

Washington, D.C.

Ms. Joo Yeun Chang

Associate Commissioner

Children’s Bureau

Administration for Children and Families

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Washington, D.C.

 Panel II: 

Leander R. McDonald, PhD

Chairman

Spirit Lake Tribe

Fort Totten, North Dakota

Accompanied by:

Ms. Melissa Merrick-Brady

Interim Director for Spirit Lake Social Services

Fort Totten, ND

Judge Molly McDonald

Devils Lake, ND

Ms. Anita Fineday JD, MPA

Managing Director

Indian Child Welfare Program

Casey Family Programs

Seattle, Washington

A live web stream will be available on the House Natural Resources Committee website once the hearing begins. Cramer added his office will also distribute the entire video recording following the hearing.

Over the past two years, numerous reports in state and national media have documented what the New York Times and CNN have described as “epidemic” and “rampant” child abuse, rape, and assault on the reservation. In virtually all reported cases, both victim and offender are members of the tribe and therefore fall under the criminal and civil jurisdiction of the federal government. Included in the allegations of child endangerment on the reservation are that tribal officials placed foster children in the homes of known sex offenders, and that several children outside the social services or foster system died as a result of severe abuse or neglect even after federal and tribal officials launched responses to the reports of rampant child abuse.

Though the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) reassumed responsibility for a child social services contract the tribe had managed, the status of child welfare and protection services on the reservation is publicly unknown because relevant federal and tribal agencies lack transparency.  Several federal officials considered whistleblowers by the media have alleged child abuse problems continue on the Spirit Lake Reservation and in one instance, federal supervisors reportedly attempted to silence the whistleblowers.

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