Hoeven Presses Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Nominee for Open, Transparent Process on Spirit Lake Issue

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today pressed Kevin Washburn, President Obama’s nominee to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior DOI, to fully engage in efforts to resolve allegations of sexual abuse and neglect at the Spirit Lake Reservation. The Interior Department oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

“I have asked the assistant secretary nominee to be fully involved in the effort to address allegations of abuse and neglect at Spirit Lake, and to make sure that efforts to address problems there are conducted in an open and transparent way,” Hoeven said. “I have also asked Secretary Washburn to keep me and my office apprised of any progress or problems that arise in the course of the BIA’s work.”

Hoeven was in Spirit Lake last week to meet with Tribal Chairman Roger Yankton and tribal social services professionals to make sure they are addressing allegations of child abuse and neglect, staffing deficiencies and inadequate progress on the BIA’s corrective action plan. He told the chairman that failure to address these issues by a Sept. 10 review of the tribe’s social services program could result in the BIA rescinding Spirit Lake’s authority to administer social services on the reservation under the Indian Self Determination Act.

Hoeven has been working with the BIA and Indian Health Services since April to make sure the tribe is working to remedy flaws in its administration of social service programs, specifically with regard to removing children from unsafe environments, securing background checks for placing children in foster care and developing procedures to ensure foster homes are safe.