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Native Sun News: Chair of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe blasts report

The following story was written and reported by Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

A sign on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from Rolf Blauert / Wikipedia

Lower Brule president calls report reckless
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Staff Writer

LOWER BRULE –– “Since early Monday morning, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe has suddenly become thrown into a skewed, metaphorical microscope by local and international media outlets,” said Roquel Gourneau a member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.

Gourneau, referring to a report released on Jan. 12 by Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch’s Business Division Director targeting the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal leadership, states, “The very notion that there is reason to have ‘no confidence’ in the historically notable, long standing Chairman Michael Jandreau is not only defective, it is preposterous.”

The report titled “Secret and Unaccountable” accuses Lower Brule tribal officials of diverting $25 million in public funding “earmarked for programs meant to provide essential services, alleviate poverty, or promote much needed economic development” into what Ganesan described as a “Black Hole.”

The group also charges tribal officials with human rights violations and of withholding “information from the public in order to avoid accountability.”

“A small circle of political elites with stark conflicts of interest between their public responsibilities and personal interests runs the Tribal Government in an environment largely devoid of transparency,” Ganesan writes.

According to the Human Rights group, Lower Brule Tribal leaders purchased the insolvent Wall Street brokerage house, Westrock Group shortly after the economic crash of 2008, when hundreds of companies were going bankrupt including Lehman Brothers and investment banks such as Merrill Lynch and AIG had to be rescued with Federal bailouts.

“To buy the company, the council used scarce tribal resources as well as a $22.5 million federally backed loan guarantee from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, under a loan program meant to promote economic development and poverty alleviation…The tribal company then sold the loan for $20 million. For the purchaser, it was seemingly risk-free; if the tribe defaulted, the U.S. government would pay. But the Tribal Government has not accounted for the $20 million it received from that sale. That’s equal to nearly two-thirds of the tribe’s annual budget.” Ganesan alleges.

In a statement issued by Lower Brule attorney Marshall Matz, Jandreau says the report “relies heavily on the false statements from political dissenters within the Tribe and treats the sovereignty of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe as simply a ‘problematic’ and inconvenient barrier to its preconceived conclusions.”

“The report of Human Rights Watch attacking the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and its leaders is totally baseless and simply republishes misstatements of the past,” Jandreau said. “The report wrongly concludes that the development of private sector businesses for sustainable future income involves the use of tribal funds.”

He calls the report remarkably inaccurate, biased, defamatory and error-ridden because the “Bureau of Indian Affairs is constantly monitoring all Tribes under its trust responsibilities.”

“This report is absolutely baseless. It’s shocking that any credible organization would put its name on it. It’s full of factual errors, misrepresentations, and outright falsehoods,” Jandreau said and that the tribe is exploring their legal options.

Last fall after three new officials, Kevin Wright, Vice Chairman, Sonny Ziegler and Desiree LaRouche, Council Representatives, were elected and asked to look into tribal finances, Ganeson alleges that Jandreau and the remaining other long-standing members, Orville Langdeau, Secretary Treasurer and John McCauley Sr. Council Representative, stonewalled them.

YouTube: 12/12/14 Lower Brule Tribal Council Meeting

On Dec. 12, 2014, the three new councilmembers staged a mock-no confidence vote, and symbolically removed Jandreau and two other members from office. They made a video of the event and posted it on YouTube.

Jandreau called the conduct of the three newly elected tribal officials illegal and petitioned to remove them from office for gross misconduct. The dispute is in tribal courts and a hearing has been set for Jan. 26.

“These three individuals attempted to physically take over the tribal government on Dec. 12, 2014. Their wholly illegal and outrageous actions were enjoined in tribal court. While these three dissident tribal council members failed, their actions succeeded in revealing their complete lack of commitment to the rule of law and the thinly veiled and inappropriate political agenda at the root of the Human Rights Watch report. The Human Rights Watch Report is political pamphleteering of the worst sort,” Jandreau states.

Gourneau calls into question the timing of the release of the report which was the same date as a hearing that was originally scheduled for Jan. 12 but was postponed.

“While these claims are extremely defective, it is difficult to deny the fortuitous timing that the articles had been released Monday, Jan. 12, 2015,” she said.

She alleges the symbolic vote of no confidence is a direct violation of the Constitution and By Laws of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and the LBST Personnel Management Policies and Procedures.

“To address whether malfeasance was achieved during this ‘symbolic vote’ we must acknowledge that any attempt to remove the primary leader of a federally recognized tribe is not only legally unjustified, it is harmful to maintaining the status and benefits of being a federally recognized tribe and more importantly detrimental to the sovereignty of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe” Gourneau said.

Wright, the newly elected Vice Chairman, said he had not heard about the Human Rights Watch report prior to its release on Jan. 12.

“We got the report the same time everyone else did. I was dumbfounded at the amount of money that was missing,” Wright said. “It makes sense to me why they wanted to keep the financials hidden, why they wanted to keep us out of there, why they want to replace us. That’s what the restraining order is all about.”

Human Rights Watch Report:
Secret and Unaccountable: The Tribal Council at Brule and Its Impact on Human Rights (January 2015)

(Ernestine Chasing Hawk can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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