OUR OPINION: Indian Health Service must explain Tilus reprimandThe Indian Health Service needs to explain itself. Otherwise, the stain on its integrity caused by the situation at Spirit Lake only deepens.
By: Mike Jacobs for the Herald, Grand Forks Herald
The sad and troubling news coming from Spirit Lake got a little more troubling over the weekend.
A whistleblower who called attention to the situation there has been reprimanded and reassigned by the Indian Health Service.
Michael Tilus called attention to conditions at Spirit Lake in April in a letter that bluntly criticized the Spirit Lake Tribe for serious failures in protecting children.
Tribal officials have defended their handling of the situation at Spirit Lake. State and federal officials have been generally reticent, often citing conflicting jurisdictions over events there.
Nevertheless, a federal investigation did result in charges against a St. Michael, N.D., man who now stands accused in the deaths of two children more than 14 months ago.
There’s also been eloquent testimony from social workers and others who serve the Spirit Lake community.
A former colleague of Tilus was quoted in the Forum Communications report printed in Saturday’s Herald. She said, “He is mandated to report. He’s not going outside his professional responsibilities here. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
His superiors evidently thought well of Tilus, too. Earlier this year, he won a national service award for “exemplary dedication to serving the underserved in frontier America, including within Indian country.
Both of North Dakota’s members of the U.S. Senate have expressed concern about the reprimand and reassignment. From Sen. John Hoeven’s staff comes our only insight into what caused the reassignment.
Staffer Ryan Bernstein said of the letter, “It talks about going outside the direct chain of command.”
That’s hardly sufficient reason for such discipline, given the circumstances.
The Indian Health Service needs to explain itself.
Otherwise, the stain on its integrity caused by the situation at Spirit Lake only deepens.
Because it sure looks as if Tilus was disciplined because he talked when others wanted him to be quiet.