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Yankton out, McDonald in as Spirit Lake chairman

FORT TOTTEN, N.D. — Wearing a full traditional headdress and vowing to “represent myself and the Spirit Lake Tribe with dignity and respect,” Leander (Russ) McDonald was sworn in Monday as new chairman of the tribe as about 150 supporters cheered and applauded.

McDonald, vice president for academic affairs at Candeska Cikana Community College here, was elected chairman immediately after tribe members voted by a large margin to remove Chairman Roger Yankton Sr. in an assembly at Four Winds School, a gathering prompted by a recall petition.

Yankton indicated he intends to challenge the validity of the petition and tribal election officials’ decision to accept it.

The vote was 284-145 to recall the controversial Yankton, who has presided over a tumultuous period on the Spirit Lake Reservation, including allegations of abuse of power, corruption, intimidation and failure to pull the tribe out of a crisis in child protection.

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