Spirit Lake Tribe

UND Receives Funding to Develop ICWA Training and Implementation Support

The University of North Dakota Department of Social Work has received a $2.4-million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support implementation and evaluation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in North Dakota over the next five years.

UND is partnering in this grant with the Children and Family Services Training Center, the North Dakota Supreme Court, the North Dakota Bureau of Indian Affairs, the North Dakota Division of Children and Family Services, the Native American Training Institute, the Spirit Lake Nation and the Standing Rock Nation. The CFSTC is housed in the UND Department of Social Work; the Center provides training for all child welfare workers across the state and will develop new training on best practices in ICWA implementation.

Read the full article at the University of North Dakota website.

Leaders Convene to Improve Life for Spirit Lake’s Sacred Children

Spirit Lake Tribe logoThis week 26 key decision-makers from the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, federal and state governments, as well as local and national private organizations met to kick off a comprehensive strategy called the “Spirit Lake Child Welfare Improvement Project.” The purpose of this gathering was to convene decision-makers to craft a vision and an initial plan for the improvement of the child welfare system at Spirit Lake.

Read the full article at the Indian Country Today Media Network website.

As Child Abuse Persists at Spirit Lake, Congress Steps In

A congressional committee has begun investigating why child abuse and neglect persists on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake reservation, almost two years after the federal government stepped in to address the problem.

At a hearing on Tuesday, tribal leaders and officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services are expected to be asked about ongoing allegations of abuse and neglect on the reservation, and the lack of visible progress in correcting the problems.

“Clearly the current system is failing our children,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in a statement. “The goal of this hearing is to shine a light on the situation and promote a dialogue about solutions.”

Read the full story at the PBS FRONTLINE website.

Cramer Announces June 24, 2014, House Hearing on Spirit Lake Child Welfare

On Tuesday, June 24th, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs will hold an oversight hearing entitled “Child Protection & the Justice System on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.” This hearing will assess whether Congressional action is needed to address systematic problems with the child welfare and justice system on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

Find the official hearing notice and the related press release from Representative Kevin Cramer’s website.

North Dakota Woman Sentenced in Toddler Death on Reservation

A Spirit Lake Indian Reservation woman who was awarded custody of infant twin girls despite a history of child neglect was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison in the death of one of the children, who was thrown down an embankment.

Read the full article at the Time website.

Turnover Hampers Protection of Children at ND’s Spirit Lake

The BIA assumed control of child protection services and certain foster care placements on Oct. 1, 2012, after complaints of systemic failures when the Spirit Lake tribe was running the programs.

A year later, tribal leaders and members credit BIA staff members with working hard to improve child protection, but visible progress has not yet been achieved…

Read the full story at the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead website.

Spirit Lake Social Services Shutdown Causes Worry

Social workers at the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation have been furloughed because of the federal government shutdown, worrying tribal officials and Sen. John Hoeven.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs took over social services from the tribe a year ago after complaints about rampant abuse of children and the death of several children placed by tribal social workers in unsafe homes.

Tribal Chairman Leander “Russ” McDonald said that a skeleton crew of BIA employees remains on duty.

Read the entire article at the Bismarck Tribune website.

Trial opens in Spirit Lake child deaths

Twenty-seven months after the brutal abuse and killing of two young siblings at their home on the Spirit Lake Sioux Indian reservation, Valentino “Tino” James Bagola goes on trial in U.S. District Court in Fargo today facing four felony counts of murder.
The violent deaths of two of its youngest and most vulnerable members traumatized the Spirit Lake Nation and fueled allegations from within and without that the tribe faced an epidemic of child abuse and had systematically failed to deal with the crisis.
Read more at the Bemidji Pioneer website.

Keeping Indian Children Safe an Ongoing Challenge (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

In 1978, Congress responded to the high numbers of Indian children being removed from their homes by passing the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA.


Some non-Indian foster parents who have taken in children from Spirit Lake say they are frustrated and confused by practices that seem not to be in the children’s best interests. They describe — on background, due to privacy concerns and confidentiality agreements— how Indian children are sometimes returned to homes despite clear evidence of drug and alcohol abuse, violence and neglect.

Controversy over the sexual abuse of children at Spirit Lake raises other complications: How extensive, actually, is the problem? What policies, actions or inactions contribute to it? What should be done to better protect vulnerable kids?

Read the full article at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

PBS documentary chronicles heartbreaking story on a N.D. reservation

It took a powerful, disturbing dream from which she awoke sobbing to convince Robin Charboneau, an Oglala Sioux and member of North Dakota’s Spirit Lake tribe, that “I needed to open my mouth, and I needed to speak.” So she let the documentary filmmaker David Sutherland follow her for more than three years as she struggled to raise her family as a single mother while confronting her alcoholism and the scars of being sexually abused as a child.

What she did not know was that her decision would temporarily cost her custody of her two children in tribal court, or that her teenage daughter would disclose that she, too, had been sexually abused — by her own father, a development that led to a federal trial and, for the filmmaker and the producers, ethical soul searching.

Read more about the documentary at the Bismark Tribune.