Funeral for late leader of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe on Thursday

Michael Jandreau, 1943-2015. Photo from Lower Brule Sioux Tribe

Michael Jandreau, the longtime leader of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota who died on Friday at the age of 71, will be laid to rest this week.

Jandreau served on the council for more than four decades, with 36 years as chair. He was hailed as a promoter of economic development and stability on the reservation.

"An icon in Indian Country is gone," Secretary-Treasurer Orville Langdeau told The Pierre Capital Journal.

During Jandreau's tenure, the tribe entered the Indian gaming industry and opened several businesses, including a construction company and a farm. Lakota Foods became known across the nation for its popcorn products, all of which come from corn grown on the reservation.

Jandreau also was at the center of a long-running dispute over a land-into-trust application for a 91-acre site not far from the reservation border. Long before Carcieri became a reality in Indian Country, the state of South Dakota was making dangerous arguments in the federal courts about the restoration of tribal lands.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case but the justices in October 1996 turned it back in an unusual move that protected the Indian Reorganization Act for another 13 more years. The Bureau of Indian Affairs eventually placed the land in trust.

Jandreau later announced plans for a $34 million off-reservation casino at the site. But the project does not seem to have advanced much even though an economic study was released more than a year ago.

Closer to home, Jandreau's leadership was being called into question by fellow council members who said they being denied information about the tribe's finances. A report from Human Rights Watch accused the tribe of failing to account for millions of dollars in federal funds but Jandreau and his allies denied any wrongdoing.

Among his fellow Sioux leaders in South Dakota, Jandreau came under fire for a potential agreement with TransCanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. The tribe's official stance, along with others in the state, has been one of opposition to the project.

Jandreau's funeral will take place at 1pm on Thursday at the Lower Brule Community Center on the reservation. He was preceded in death by his wife, Jackie.

With Jandreau's passing, Vice Chairman Kevin Wright has asserted control of the tribe and will serve as acting chair. He had been at odds with the former chairman for several months.

"I really do want to say that I respect him and all that he has done for the tribe but also want to say that we have to move forward," Wright told KELO.

The tribe hasn't said whether it will conduct an election to fill the vacant seat on the council.

Get the Story:
Tribal chairman’s funeral set for Thursday (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 4/6)
Remembering Michael Jandreau (KELO 4/5)
Lower Brule Vice Chairman To Serve As Acting Chairman (KDLT 4/5)
Lower Brule chairman Michael Jandreau dies (The Sioux Falls Argus Leader 4/4)
Jandreau dies; Lower Brule Sioux chairman 30 years (The Pierre Capital Journal 4/4)
Lower Brule Sioux Tribe leader Michael Jandreau dies (AP 4/3)

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

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