SISSETON, S.D. -- The tribal council on the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation voted Friday to reinstate its chairman, who was suspended earlier this month for ordering drug tests for all 100 tribal government employees.
Bruce Renville, 71, regained the support of the council after an eight-hour closed hearing that tribal members said lasted much longer than expected.
Renville, who is fighting what tribal officials call an “epidemic” of meth use on the reservation that covers five counties in far northeast South Dakota and two counties in far southeast North Dakota, was represented at the hearing by former South Dakota U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, who is now working for a law firm specializing in Native American issues.
On his Facebook page while awaiting the vote, Renville wrote, “Thank you for all the support, friends and relatives. Awaiting council's decision, just want to mention that you are all amazing and we appreciate you so much. You stand up for what you believe in and have continued to humble us every moment.”
After the vote, when he announced he was reinstated, he wrote on his Facebook page, “Your voice has been heard.”
The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal council voted nearly unanimously earlier this month to suspend Renville, a former 32-year federal government employee with the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., and the Indian Health Service in Aberdeen, S.D., because of the mandatory drug testing, which he said many failed.
Details on exactly how many of the employees failed and for what drug was not released.
However, the employees felt their civil rights were being violated and that it was an abuse of power by Renville, who was only elected chairman last November, and that he embarrassed the tribe’s workers.
However, the tribe, which has 13,177 members nationwide, is certainly concerned about the meth use.
Last month, the tribe’s Board of Elders urged the tribal council to banish meth dealers from the tribe.
The council passed the resolution, making banishment a consequence for felony convicted meth dealers.
With the vote, the tribe joined the other northern South Dakota Sioux tribes on the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock reservations in calling for the banishment of convicted meth dealers, which they view as a solution for ending the meth epidemic on the reservations in South Dakota and North Dakota.