<i>New York Times</i> Covers Spirit Lake Tribe's Alleged Attempts to Conceal Child Sex Abuse

New York Times Covers Spirit Lake Tribe's Alleged Attempts to Conceal Child Sex Abuse


A New York Times article published today, "A Tribe's Epidemic of Child Sex Abuse, Minimized for Years," exposes the devastating prevalence of child sex abuse and rape on the Fort Totten Reservation in North Dakota and the alleged efforts of tribal leadership to hide the abuse.

The article comes shortly after a U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announcement that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will take over the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation's social services system, including the care of its sexually abused children, on October 1.

The tribe's decision to "voluntarily retrocede its social services program" to the BIA, according to a DOI press release, was reached after years of insufficient efforts by tribal and government law enforcement officials to properly investigate cases of child sex abuse and rape, and failure to prosecute offenders.

The Times article identifies several convicted rapists, most of them repeat perpetrators, who remain free and some of them still in custody of children. Among them: Joseph Alberts, 59, who plays Santa Claus for the tribe. Convicted of rape in 1983, Alberts served 18 months in prison. In 1986, he was found guilty of committing lewd acts with a child under 14 on four different occasions. For those crimes, he served only one year.

Molly McDonald, who was a tribal judge until March, told the Times that police investigated sex crimes against children only if a victim requested hospitalization, and tribal leaders often attempted to influence judges’ opinions improperly.

While there is no defense of any tribal neglect to protect the Spirit Lake children, relinquishing power to the federal government may not be the best answer, says Raymond Foxworth (Navajo), in an Indian Country Today Media Network op-ed.

Foxworth underscores the irony of putting power in the hands of those who "have historically initiated purposeful acts of abuse and neglect against Native children...."

He references the personal and cultural destruction inflicted in boarding schools and government homes, and the resulting historical trauma "that is still alive and well in Native communities and continues to manifest itself in many destructive ways."

Foxworth explains that "forcing the Spirit Lake Nation into receivership, stripped of their self-determination contracts" may not be a good solution or in the best interest of Spirit Lake children. "Thus, this raises the question: Who will speak for Native children?" he asks.

"Children are the ones that carry on our traditions, knowledge and are the future of our nations," Foxworth says. "Until we put them at the forefront of our discussions and agenda, they may be vulnerable to several levels of government abuse and neglect and may be the catalyst to force Native receivership."

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martibowker's picture
Submitted by martibowker on
Everybody pays lip service to "our children are sacred" but statistic show a different story. Yes, let's put our children in the forefront of our many concerns, stop the endless discussions and put the pedophiles behind bars for where they belong. Tribal leadership (dependent on votes) should have NO influence in the courts or in any programs, etc where decisions can be swayed by the need to keep people voting for them. Lets get real and stop this vicious circle of abuse!

johnmarcus's picture
Submitted by johnmarcus on
Regarding turning it over to the U.S. and the historical distrust that exists, what about turning it over to another Native American Nation that is not a historical enemy to them. Another suggestion might be to go to the United Nations and ask them to get involved. Lastly, a long range goal might be for all the Indigenous Nations of the world to create our own United Nations to address this type of issue as well as others.

johnmarcus's picture
Submitted by johnmarcus on
yeah i just posted a comment and nothing showed up.

Submitted by CHESTER SNAVELY on
Unfortunately in Canada right now we are having riots in Eastern Canada with damage by our aboriginals. One wonders when these native aboriginal people will ever have maturity and civility.