Native Sun News: Chairman of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe walks on

The following story was written and reported by Jesse Abernathy, contributing writer, and Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News editor. All content © Native Sun News.

Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Chairman Bruce Renville, Kul Wicasa Oyate Chairman Michael Jandreau and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II at the recent State Tribal Relations event in Pierre. Photo courtesy Kathy Aplan

Leader of the Kul Wicasa Oyate walks on
By Jesse Abernathy and Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News

LOWER BRULE –– Michael Jandreau, who humbly attributed his enduring success as leader of the Kul Wicasa Oyate for more than 35 years to the people themselves, has made his journey to the spirit world.

“The credit goes to people who have been generous enough to allow me to serve here,” Jandreau told Native Sun News in 2012. “Anything that we’ve been able to accomplish has only been able to be done through their willingness to allow it to happen. I’m just kind of a common guy. I don’t purport to have any great skills or anything like that.”

Jandreau, who was 71, died Friday afternoon from complications from pneumonia and heart disease at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Jandreau first served on the Kul Wicasa Oyate tribal council before becoming Tribal Chairman and had the longest running career as chairmen of any tribe in the state.

He leaves behind a legacy of success including economic development projects that benefited the 1,300 Native Americans who live on the tribe's reservation nestled along the Missouri River.

Some of the projects he spearheaded during his administration were Lakota Foods, the first and only Native American owned and operated organization producing, processing, packaging, and marketing popcorn. The firm is the number one grower of popcorn in the world. In 2013, the South Dakota State University recognized Jandreau as an “Eminent Farmer.”

During his tenure as chairman he also helped his tribe purchase and maintain a buffalo herd and opened a Buffalo Interpretative Center which houses a gift shop that sells items made by Native American artisans.

Jandreau was also instrumental in negotiating a compact with the State of South Dakota to open the tribes Golden Buffalo Casino which is one of the largest employers on the reservation.

For 17 years, Jandreau spearheaded a legal battle against the state of South Dakota who fought to prevent them from putting their off-reservation land into trust. South Dakota lost that battle, and the tribe has started planning how to use its land near Oacoma. In the works are a casino, a travel center, a hotel, and a water park.

Jandreau, who was born Oct. 20, 1943, spent most of his life living on the Lower Brule reservation where he maintained a small family ranch, comprised of a few head of livestock including cattle and horses.

In his 2012 interview with Native Sun News Jandreau was optimistic about the future of the Kul Wicasa Oyate.

“I think that the success of our tribe’s not vested in myself, but it’s vested in the people themselves and their desires to have a more secure future for their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” said Jandreau.

Jandreau lost his wife Jackie in 2011. The couple had 10 children.

All family and friends can say their final farewells to this leader who will be remembered for his triumphs on Thurs. April 9, at 10 a.m. at Lower Brule Community Center.

(Jesse Abernathy and Ernestine Chasing Hawk contributed to this article)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation