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Published August 27, 2012, 03:49 PM

Spirit Lake Says More Social Services Staff Needed, Meeting Held Today

At the urging of Senator Kent Conrad the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs joined other federal officials in Fort Totten today to discuss ongoing problems with the tribe's social services programs.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

At the urging of Senator Kent Conrad the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs joined other federal officials in Fort Totten today to discuss ongoing problems with the tribe's social services programs.

Federal and tribal officials met for hours today discussing a myriad of issues on the reservation and both sides point to the same issue as the top priority on the reservation.

The meeting with federal officials was arranged after senator Conrad called Spirit Lake a "rudderless ship" while in Grand Forks last week. BIA director Michael Black joined the director of BIA Law Enforcement and two washington-based officials who oversee tribal social services issues.

The BIA has been working with Spirit Lake on a plan to fix social services for more than a year and has been providing extra social workers for the past several weeks. Both federal and tribal officials say the extra workers mask the most pressing issue with social services.

Black: “We've been dealing with a lot of staffing issues. Some of the areas surround that. Technical assistance and what we can bring to the table to assist the tribe in resolving the situation.”

Mark Little Owl, Spirit Lake Social Services Director: “Getting more staff that can actually go and do the hands on, the home visits and getting qualified representatives, not saying we don't have qualified people. We do. We're just very limited resources.”

Tribal chairman Roger Yankton wouldn't talk on camera, but he did question why it took until now for federal officials to visit the reservations when he says he's been asking for help for a year.

After this week's discussions, the BIA will come back to check the tribe's progress in September.

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