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Published August 03, 2012, 10:04 AM

Reprimand reversed for Spirit Lake whistleblower

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The Indian Health Service has rescinded its reprimand of a psychiatrist who criticized the Spirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota for what he said was the failure to protect reservation children from abuse.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The Indian Health Service has rescinded its reprimand of a psychiatrist who criticized the Spirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota for what he said was the failure to protect reservation children from abuse.

The U.S. Department of Human Services also has restored an offer for Micheal Tilus to serve with the IHS at Fort Belknap in Montana, spokesman Mark Weber told The Forum newspaper.

Tilus was the behavioral health director of the IHS clinic in Fort Totten, on the Spirit Lake reservation, when he wrote a letter in April expressing "grave concern" for the reservation's children. He later was reprimanded and reassigned to the IHS headquarters in Aberdeen, S.D. The action was publicly criticized by North Dakota's two U.S. senators, Kent Conrad and John Hoeven, who have pressed the IHS and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address gaps in child protection services identified by Tilus and later by Thomas Sullivan, a regional administrator for Human Services.

"After reviewing the personnel actions in this case, the IHS director immediately took action to reverse them," Weber said. "We remain committed to working with the tribe, state and federal officials to improve efforts to combat child abuse in the Spirit Lake community."

Critics have cited the killing of two siblings last year and the death of 2-month-old Debra Kay Anderson Dogskin last month as examples of reservation children being at risk.

Sullivan has said the infant girl died in her St. Michael home after repeated reports of suspected child neglect. The state medical examiner in Bismarck has conducted an autopsy but results have not been released.

The father of the two children who were found slain in their St. Michael home — 9-year-old Destiny Shaw and her 6-year-old brother, Travis Dubois Jr. — was released from custody on Monday after serving about half of his sentence for public intoxication and reckless endangerment. Travis Dubois Sr. was arrested on May 21, 2011, the day his children were found dead. Another man has been charged with stabbing them to death.

Tribal prosecutor Joe Vetsch said federal authorities had resisted early release for Dubois, until Valentino Bagola was indicted for murder. Bagola has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a late-September trial.

Dubois must complete inpatient alcohol counseling, Vetsch said.

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