SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Michael Jandreau, who led South Dakota's Lower Brule Sioux Tribe for at least 30 years and was known for a variety of economic development projects but had recently faced allegations of financial wrongdoing, died Friday. He was 71.
Jandreau died Friday afternoon from complications from pneumonia and heart disease at Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls, said tribal attorney Marshall Matz, of Washington, D.C.
"We have lost a visionary Tribal leader who was widely respected throughout the State of South Dakota and the nation. May he rest in peace with his beloved wife Jackie," Matz said in an email to The Associated Press.
As chairman of the Lower Brule, Jandreau earned praise from tribal members and state and federal leaders for economic development projects that benefited the 1,300 Native Americans who live on the tribe's reservation along the Missouri River. The projects included a farm operation and a casino. Jandreau was recognized as an "Eminent Farmer" by South Dakota State University in 2013.
But he spent his final days defending himself against allegations of financial wrongdoing outlined in January by Human Rights Watch that accused him and others of diverting money and concealing financial activity.
Jandreau and Matz denied any wrongdoing, and Matz urged the organization to retract its findings and issue an apology.
"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 Feb. 28 at the state Capitol in Pierre, pointing upward. "To me that's what it's all about. You know, 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."
Jandreau was born Oct. 20, 1943, in Fort Thompson on the Crow Creek reservation. He was educated in Catholic American Indian schools. His wife died in 2011.