Lower Brule Sioux elders and treaty council members are meeting in the aftermath of an investigative report by Human Rights Watch to discuss allegations of misappropriation of federal funds by their tribal leaders.
We visited the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation and found that as much as many tribal members were aware of what they allege are years of administrative mismanagement, others have been completely surprised by the report’s findings.
The Lower Brule Treaty Office sits just around the corner from the Golden Buffalo Casino. The large room’s simple furnishings belie the significance of what takes place here.
It’s in this room that elders and their younger supporters gather to discuss issues impacting the Lower Brule Sioux people that are directly related to treaties with the federal government. Treaties which, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, are still in force more than a century after they were signed.
But this is also where elders voice their opinions and concerns about current-day tribal issues. Tonight that conversation centers on allegations of mismanagement by long-time Tribal Chairman Mike Jandreau. It’s a situation that Janice Bad Horse Larson says is nothing new.
“I’ve been fighting this since the seventies,” Larson recalls. “My sister and other people…we’ve been fighting. And I left in the eighties.”
Larson returned to Lower Brule in 2000 to find nothing had changed.
“I just said…may as well join the fight again,” Larson comments. “You know, pick up from where I left off. But this time I was more education and this and that.”
And this time, says Larson, she’s here to stay.
Sheryl Estes Scott also left the reservation. And though she came home to visit from time to time, she had no idea about how her government is alleged to have controlled tribal members until she moved back in 2008.
“And I could see the tyranny that’s developed over the years,” Scott explains. “And I don’t think people know or can really see that. They just think that’s the way it is.”
Scott says her biggest eye-opener came when she was president of the tribal college
“I had gone to the council to present a petition of over 400 signatures to get 25 acres of land for the college,” remembers Scott. “Mike made the statement himself...’This is not going before council.”
Sheryl Estes Scott hopes the Human Right Watch report, which Mike Jandreau has discounted, will at least result in a change of tribal leadership.
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