Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Spirit Lake Tribal Council appeals Yankton’s reinstatement

  • FORT TOTTEN, N.D. (AP) — The Spirit Lake Nation tribal council has appealed a court ruling reinstating embattled chairman Roger Yankton Sr.
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  • FORT TOTTEN, N.D. (AP) — The Spirit Lake Nation tribal council has appealed a court ruling reinstating embattled chairman Roger Yankton Sr.
    Yankton returned briefly as chairman on Wednesday, but opponents obtained an emergency injunction from the Northern Plains Intertribal Court of Appeals in Aberdeen, S.D., which declared him out of office, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
    That effectively restored Leander "Russ" McDonald to the chairmanship until further court proceedings.
    Until Wednesday, there had been no process of appeal from the tribal court because Yankton had not renewed a contract with the appeals court in mid-2011. But the tribal council had met earlier Wednesday and voted to renew the tribe's contract with Northern Plains.
    Earlier this month, tribal members voted 284-145 to recall Yankton in a vote prompted by petitions accusing him of corruption, intimidation and ineffective leadership. McDonald, vice president for academic affairs at Candeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten, was sworn in as chairman.
    Yankton won an appeal at tribal court and was sworn in Wednesday at a ceremony that concluded with drums and singers performing an honor song as tribe members, including many members of Yankton's extended family, lined up to congratulate him.
    "That's what the judicial process is for," he said before leaving to huddle with other tribal officials.
    But the newly reinstated appeals court responded almost immediately, issuing a writ staying the tribal court's order that favored Yankton and prohibiting any action until a hearing could be held.
    The tribe has gone through years of upheaval, particularly with its child protection system. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs took over that system last October after heavy criticism that it was failing to protect vulnerable children on the reservation. The criticism began to mount after the May 2011 slaying of a 6-year-old boy and his 9-year-old sister, who authorities said had been sexually assaulted.
    In the most recent incident, a St. Michael woman pleaded guilty to felony child abuse and witness tampering in the death of her 2-year-old granddaughter, who authorities say died of a head injury after being pushed down a hill.
    McDonald, who lost to Yankton in the 2011 election for chairman, was briefly installed as chairman earlier this year by tribal elders. He later agreed with Yankton, however, that tribal law required a petition and a recall assembly.
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