FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs said it has handled more than a hundred reports of suspected child abuse or neglect on the Spirit Lake reservation since taking over social services in October.
The bureau assumed control of the tribe's social service programs after criticism that the tribe has failed to protect vulnerable children.
Forum Communications reports that the bureau has new procedures for placing children in foster homes, including ensuring there are documents showing the placement was ordered by a tribal judge.
The bureau also informed the North Dakota congressional delegation on Friday that it has hired a social worker to manage the Spirit Lake Tribe's social services program.
"It's important that the BIA continue to be engaged, and that they keep the public informed about efforts to ensure child safety on the reservation," delegation members said in a statement.
Last week, some members of the Spirit Lake Tribe complained that visible progress was not being made.
Protesters gathered outside tribal headquarters before a general assembly called by the tribal council, holding signs with messages such as, "Who is looking out for the kids of Spirit Lake?" and "Justice for the victims of abuse."
"I'm not seeing any progress," Theresa Brien, a tribal member who lives in Grand Forks, said in a phone interview while picketing on Nov. 5. "They're not letting people know what they're doing. They're basically blowing smoke. We have a right to know what they're doing."
Brien, one of the organizers of the protest, said she hopes the demonstration will motivate other tribal members to speak out to demand better and more open government from tribal leaders.