Law

HHS official blames Spirit Lake Nation for child abuse problems





The leader of the Spirit Lake Dakotah Nation in North Dakota should be prosecuted for child abuse, an official with the Administration for Children and Families said in an email obtained by The Fargo Forum.

The tribe's social service program has come under scrutiny due to alleged instances of abuse and neglect. Thomas Sullivan, a regional administrator for the ACF, says tribal leaders and officials are to blame for the problems.

“The children of the Spirit Lake Reservation are being subjected to actual abuse or the threat of such abuse due to the actions and inactions of adults who have responsibility to protect them from such abuse,” Sullivan wrote in the email.

Of tribal officials, Sullivan said: “They have hung signs at the borders of the Spirit Lake Nation, ‘Pedophiles Welcome.’ They have made these signs operational by firing professional, qualified staff, directing their replacements to ignore reports of abuse and neglect, refusing to prosecute the most egregious cases of abuse, even the murder of children, by demonizing those who speak out on behalf of these children and then claiming piously, ‘Our children are sacred’ while all look the other way.”

Sullivan claimed Chairman Roger Yankton could be prosecuted for his role in the situation. "The existing record will provide more than adequate evidence to substantiate these charges and result in a conviction,” he wrote.

The murders mentioned by Sullivan were of Destiny Jane Shaw-DuBois, 9, and Travis Lee DuBois Jr, 6. The children, whose mother is a tribal member, were killed in their father's home.

The father, Travis DuBois, was arrested and charged in tribal court with reckless endangerment and public intoxication. He reportedly pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and 60 days by the tribe.

Timothy Purdon, the U.S. Attorney for North Dakota, said federal authorities continue to investigate the case.

Get the Story:
Child abuse a concern at Spirit Lake (The Fargo Forum 6/22)

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Sen. Hoeven seeks answers on Spirit Lake social services (04/25)
Editorial: A free press is essential, even in a tribal society (4/17)
Deaths of Spirit Lake Dakotah children treated as homicide (05/26)
Spirit Lake mother confirms identities of two slain children (5/25)
Father suspected for deaths of two children at Spirit Lake (5/24)