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Published September 04, 2012, 07:07 PM

Yankton Responds to Criticism about Spirit Lake Social Services

The chairman of the Spirit Lake tribe has responded to months of criticism from a federal administrator over tribal social services. Chairman Roger Yankton says the accusations against the tribe are nothing but rumors and hearsay.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

The chairman of the Spirit Lake tribe has responded to months of criticism from a federal administrator over tribal social services. Chairman Roger Yankton says the accusations against the tribe are nothing but rumors and hearsay.

Yankton's letter attempts to damage the credibility of the administration for children and families administrator Thomas Sullivan by claiming his reports are full of lies. Sullivan has since written a fifth report responding to Yankton's claims.

Betty Jo Krenz, former Spirit Lake Social Worker: “I think Mr. Sullivan has asked five times for a response, so i am glad that he did take time and respond to him.”

Sullivan's reports paint the reservation in a harsh light: Alleged child abuse, neglect, accusing the chairman of ordering social services documents to be shredded and even recommending tribal officials be arrested. Sullivan's reports have helped spread the word about problems on the tribe.

Krenz: “What I think is it's really sad that it takes a man from a thousand miles away to put two and two together to try and fix the situation or at least get the right people on board to fix the situation.”

But Yankton calls the reports rumor and conjecture. He accuses Sullivan of abusing federal power by spreading lies. He also says Sullivan has never visited the reservation to investigate himself. But Sullivan says he came last year and visited with the head of social services at the time.

Krenz: “I was shocked to see that Mr. Yankton was not aware of the fact that Mr. Sullivan has been on the reservation and had been in contact with the former director and obviously is still in contact with the former director.”

The BIA administrator who received Sullivan's reports will be on the reservation for the next two weeks working with tribal leaders on an overhaul. Senator John Hoeven is also scheduled to visit the reservation Friday afternoon to check on the tribe’s progress.

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