As repercussions from the Human Rights Watch report on irregularities in its tribal government continue to ripple across the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation, grass roots tribal members are gathering to plan changes in what’s become the status quo.
We sit in on a meeting at the Lower Brule Treaty Office to ask how the long-term administration of Chairman Mike Jandreau has impacted people on a personal basis and what their hopes are for the future.
Remnants of the last snow storm are still evident on the streets of Lower Brule as I drive past the Golden Buffalo Casino and pull in at the tribe’s treaty office.
Within the small, orange aluminum building, a dozen elders and supporters of the Grass Roots Oyate – or people - discuss their efforts to remove Chairman Mike Jandreau from the leadership position he’s held for 30 years.
Recent revelations by Human Rights Watch of corruption and financial mismanagement within the Lower Brule Sioux tribal government have been largely ignored by Jandreau and his supporters.
But Waylon Grassrope, a decorated veteran and certified EMT, says he’s seen the impacts of financial mismanagement first hand.
“My biggest issue, besides people dying and suffering from the poor quality of EMS care that they receive is the ambulance radios will not communicate with the police department or fire department radios,” explains Grassrope. “That’s kind of a huge thing.”
Grassrope brought the issue to his office manager, the ambulance service director and, eventually, to the Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council. A year after he started his campaign for better communication among first responders, Grass Rope was advised that he’d been terminated.
Having seen the Human Rights Watch report noting more than $26 million in tribal funds unaccounted for, Grassrope just shakes his head when he thinks how little it would have cost in comparison to buy new radios.
Elder Janice Bad Horse Larson was away from the reservation for 20 years before coming home to care for her ailing mother. Now that she’s back, Larson plans to stay for the fight to regain control of her tribal government.
Larson says what the tribe needs is a return to traditional values by leaders who maintain traditional beliefs. Mike Jandreau, she says, isn’t one of them. For his part, Jandreau has dismissed the Human Rights Watch Report as inaccurate.
Lower Brule Tribe Grass Roots Movement