FBI presence on Spirit Lake Nation WednesdayFBI agents are on the Spirit Lake Nation Wednesday and an investigation is underway. It's the latest step in a drawn-out summer of tragedy and controversy on the reservation.
By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ
FBI agents are on the Spirit Lake Nation Wednesday and an investigation is underway. It's the latest step in a drawn-out summer of tragedy and controversy on the reservation.
The FBI and federal officials aren't saying much about the investigation.
"There is nothing unusual or 'special' about the presence of any agents/prosecutors who may be on the Spirit Lake Reservation this week," said US Attorney Timothy Purdon.
Breakdown of events
The Spirit Lake Nation has faced constant controversy this spring and summer beginning on April 10, when then tribal councilwoman Clarise Brownshield accused then-Chairman Roger Yankton of corruption, which lead to several meetings rallying tribal members against yankton. A petition drive against him started the following week.
"When he refused to acknowledge the will of the people and not step down, then we decided we had to go through a petition," said tribal elder Erich Longie.
While petitioners worked to remove Yankton, tragedy struck on the reservation. On June 12th, two-year-old Laurynn Whiteshield died when her step-grandmother threw her down an embankment. Hope Tomohawk Whiteshield plead guilty to felony child abuse that caused the girl's death. It was the latest in a string of child deaths on the reservation in the past several years.
Petitioners finally turned in the petition against Yankton on June 24th. That led to a recall hearing on July 1. Roger Yankton was voted out by a two-to-one margin. Tribal members then elected Russ McDonald, an administrator at Cankdeska Cikana Community College, to replace him.
Yankton wouldn't talk then, but he played his next hand two weeks later appealing to the tribal court to invalidate the petition. That decision put Yankton back into office, but before Yankton was reinstated, McDonald's tribal council voted to re-join an appeals court, which put a stay on the tribal court's order. Yankton was back out the next day, after the rest of the tribal council voted to oust him. That matter should be finally settled later this month.
Then, another case of violence on the reservation -- 16-year-old Eugene Lohnes was shot in the back. The FBI says that investigation is still ongoing, but one man -- 28-year-old Nicholas Jack -- was arrested in connection to the shooting. After a tumultuous summer on the reservation, there are still many questions left to answer. The federal agents on the reservation could be looking for those answers right now. An FBI spokesperson said he doesn't know how long agents will be in the area, nor did he offer any details into the investigation.