As the non-profit group Human Rights Watch released a report alleging corruption and mismanagement of federal funds by the Lower Sioux Tribal government, grass roots members of the tribe are raising their voices to be heard.
Among them are the newly-elected Lower Brule vice-chairman and a respected tribal elder.
Last November, newly-elected Lower Brule Sioux vice-chairman Kevin Wright confronted tribal chairman Mike Jandreau with allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds under Jandreau’s watch – which spans 30 years. But Kevin Wright says the move was a long time coming.
“You’ve got to understand that this is being built up,” Wright explains. “It didn’t just happen…all of a sudden we try to remove Mike. It’s built up.”
First there were the major issues of mismanagement of federal funds by the tribe, causing shortfalls in finances available for schools, water and economic development. Then there were millions of dollars missing from the questionable purchase of a Wall Street firm that went belly-up. These issues date back many years. Yet, Kevin Wright says the mindset of corruption is engrained in the tribal leadership and continues to this day.
“After we were inaugurated,“ Wright recalls, laughing, “one of them was up there signing checks. We couldn’t sign checks…but one of the ex-council members was up there signing checks.”
Jandreau refused to address Kevin Wright’s allegations and walked out of the November council meeting along with two tribal council representatives aligned with him. Wright held a subsequent meeting in December and replaced Jandreau and his allies with the aid of two newly-elected grass roots council reps.
“Lakota” George Estes is one of a group of elders who requested the assistance of Human Rights Watch. As the Lower Brule Sioux government stands in limbo, Estes joins many tribal members who are pleased with Jandreau’s removal.
“We’re concerned about the president and the future of our children,” Estes comments. “And we’re going to be taking care of what needs to be taken care of here.”
Kevin Wright and the tribe’s 2 newly-elected council reps are due in tribal court today to have an Emergency Restraining Order placed upon them.
Lower Sioux Tribal Council Meeting
November 5, 2014
Lower Brule Sioux Tribal Council Meeting
December 12, 2014
Related Story - Human Rights Watch Report Cites Corruption At Lower Brule