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Published July 17, 2013, 03:02 PM

Spirit Lake leadership uncertain

About an hour after Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony, the Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals in Aberdeen, S.D. issued a stay on Tuesday's ruling that Roger Yankton should be reinstalled as chairman of the Spirit Lake Tribal Council.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

About an hour after Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony, the Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals in Aberdeen, S.D. issued a stay on Tuesday's ruling that Roger Yankton should be re-installed as chairman of the Spirit Lake Tribal Council.

The decision is the latest in a series of back and forth litigation. After allegations of abuse of power, corruption, intimidation and failure to pull the tribe out of a child protection crisis, a successful recall vote petition was drafted last month which lead to Yankton's removal and Russ McDonald being sworn in as chairman with a vote of 284-145 on July 1. Tension between Yankton's supporters and opponents was strong enough that the Bureau of Indian Affairs posted 15 police officers, including officers from other jurisdictions, at the polling place, the Four Winds School, to ensure the peace was kept.

McDonald earlier lost an election against Yankton for the position in 2011, and was briefly installed earlier this year as chairman when tribal elders claimed the right to oust Yankton at a special general assembly, but McDonald later agreed with Yankton's contention that tribal law required a petition and recall assembly.

The latest ruling change is the result of the Spirit Lake tribe renewing an arrangement with the Intertribal Court Wednesday morning. The original arrangement had been allowed to lapse in 2011, according to appellate court administrator James Bluestone, Jr.

It is unclear how this ruling will affect the council. Russ McDonald wouldn't comment specifically on the ruling, only saying that at this time he remains for Fort Totten District Representative on the council and Yankton remains the Chairman. Yankton was unable to be reached for comment after leaving the swearing-in ceremony.

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