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Hundreds Pay Tribute to Michael Jandreau, a Controversial Icon

Michael Jandreau, the late Lower Brule Sioux Tribal chairman, was remembered on Thursday as hundreds of mourners paid tribute to a Native icon.
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Michael Jandreau, the late Lower Brule Sioux Tribal chairman, was remembered on Thursday as hundreds of mourners paid tribute to one of Indian country’s controversial icons according to the Associated Press.

The gymnasium of the Lower Brule Community Center was filled with tribal members, representatives from South Dakota’s tribal governments and state and federal leaders, where many stories were shared of the tribal leader with more than 35 years in tribal politics.

“I always knew him as chairman,” Tex Hall, former Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation chairman said via AP. “He was devoted to the Lower Brule people.”

Jandreau walked on April 3 due to heart problems, he was 71 years old.

Jandreau received much praise from tribal members, state and federal officials for working on economic development projects that continued to benefit the 1,300-member tribe as the AP reported following news of his passing.

Throughout his years as chairman, Jandreau was outspoken when it came to issues such as alcohol sales on the reservation, Indian Health Service investigations and the Keepseagle case.

In May of 2009, the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe banned the sale of alcohol on the reservation reversing a decision that had previously allowed alcohol sales at the tribe’s Golden Buffalo Resort and Casino. Critics said Jandreau pushed for the alcohol sales, but the late chairman insisted he wanted a dry casino.

“I didn’t push for alcohol in the casino,” Jandreau said at the time. “But I had a responsibility to follow the direction of the council.”

RELATED: Lower Brule Sioux Tribe bans alcohol sales

In 2010, as the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs continued to investigate alleged regional mismanagement at IHS, Jandreau recalled that some of the issues had “been going on for years and years and years.” He went on to say, “if there is some serious criminal behavior, it will get tended to; and if not, it will clear up the perception.”

RELATED: IHS investigation proceeds

Jandreau was also one of a few tribal leaders who spoke up in 2013 in response to the Keepseagle decision allowing the lawyers to control $380 million of the settlement as reported by ICTMN. At the time some tribal leaders were cautious fearing being cut out of any possible deal in retaliation.

RELATED: Tribes Don’t Like Keepseagle Lawyers Controlling $380 Million of Settlement

Jandreau, himself, was not without controversy. The chairman spent his final days fighting back against allegations of financial wrongdoing outlined by Human Rights Watch in January according to the AP. Amid the accusations were diverting money and concealing financial activity.

“I believe in myself. I believe in what I’ve committed my life to, and so every day I talk to that guy first, and I go through my life,” Jandreau told the AP on February 28 pointing upward. “…I’ve lived my life with one thought in mind: that what I reach beyond this life is more important to me than becoming a wealthy man by skullduggery or wickedness.”

Upon Jandreau walking on, Kevin Wright became acting chairman and immediately fired three lawyers who he says were allies of Jandreau’s as part of the alleged wrongdoing according to the Argus Leader.

Despite the conflicts, many remembered him as a tireless champion for his tribe on Thursday, not to mention for all of Indian country.