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Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate chairman suspended for drug tests

Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Bruce Renville with President Barack Obama in Watertown, South Dakota, on May 8, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Bruce Renville has been suspended as chairman of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota after he ordered drug tests for all tribal employees.

Renville made hundreds of employees line up on August 17 for the tests, The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported. But he lacked the authority to do so, according to the tribal council.

“Your directive to call for the testing of all employees was not pursuant to the five reasons an employee is subjected to drug testing pursuant to tribal policy,” the council told Renville in a September 8 letter, the paper reported. “In connection to the mass drug test, no justification provided by your office shows the drug testing was performed pursuant to policy or law, which could lead to violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act as well.”

Renville said he took action after seeing the devastating effects of drugs on the reservation. According to the paper, 20 tribal babies were born addicted to methamphetamine last year. When one tribal department tested less than 10 employees for drugs, 25 percent failed, the paper said.

“I did the right thing. I was within my authority as chairman to do a drug test,” said Renville told the paper. “But people are angry. They want somebody’s head. I guess they want mine.”

Renville, who welcomed President Barack Obama to a town outside the border of the reservation in May, is due for a removal hearing before the council on September 18.

Get the Story:
Tribal chairman suspended after ordering drug tests (The Sioux Falls Argus leader 9/12)

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