Regional and Local Briefs: June 2014
Monday, June 09 2014
Written by The Circle Staff,
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MORTON, Minn. – Over 7,000 descendants of self-identified “loyal Mdewakanton Indians” filed suit in Minnesota federal district court on May 20 to reclaim a 12 square-mile portion of land in Redwood, Renville and Sibley counties.

If successful, the Lower Sioux Community, along with nearly 100 other residents of the area, would be removed from their homes and possibly required to pay damages to the plaintiffs for trespass. Denny Prescott, Lower Sioux Community President said, “these individuals are not a tribe, nor do they represent the interests or values of the Lower Sioux Community.”

Members of the council said they had not heard much about the lawsuit until it had been filed and they read about it in newspapers. “We’re not sure what land they are specifically talking about,” tribal council member Gary Prescott said, adding that no map of the area outlined in the lawsuit has been provided to them.

With land in three counties making up the description in the lawsuit, many entities and individuals have been listed as defendants, including the Lower Sioux Community. While the lawsuit lists the Lower Sioux by name, Denny Prescott said neither the council nor the community as a whole have officially been served in the lawsuit. Nonetheless, the council is gathering information in anticipation of being served with the lawsuit, and that, Denny Prescott added, is going to mean significant expense for the community. Once the tribe is served, it has 30 days to respond in writing to the claims in the lawsuit.

In the 1850s, a treaty signed between the United States and members of the Mdewakanton tribe in Minnesota established what is known as the Lower Sioux Community and its homeland in the Redwood area. Initially, the commitment to the tribe was for a 10-mile wide strip of land on either side of the Minnesota River, but over time that land was taken away from them. It was in 1934, as part of the Indian Reorganization Act, when the current Lower Sioux community reservation, which is made up of just over 1,700 acres, was established.


BEMIDJI, Minn. – Three people were arrested May 23 en route to Red Lake transporting 43 grams of methamphetamine from the Twin Cities.

Alex "Sparky" Dejesus-Zuniga, 18, and Delisha Rae Rodriguez, 25, of Richfield, Minn., and Joseph Jacob "Jake" Thunder, III, 47, of Redby, face first-degree conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine charges after being stopped by local law enforcement on U.S. Highway 71 south of Bemidji.

Once pulled over, law enforcement observed several hypodermic needles strewn about the interior of the vehicle, the complaint said. After a search, Dejesus-Zuniga was found to be in possession of one bag containing approximately 28.5 grams of methamphetamine and a separate bag containing 14.5 grams was inside Dejesus-Zuniga's backpack. Rodriguez was in possession of several micro-baggies consistent with packaging meth for street sale, according to the criminal complaint.

Thunder told law enforcement he picked up his daughter, Rodriguez, and her friend "Sparky" in the Twin Cities and that they talked about bringing methamphetamine to the Red Lake Reservation because it sold for very high prices on the reservation, according to court documents. Thunder was to receive 1 gram of meth for transporting Rodriguez and Dejesus-Zuniga.

Rodriguez originally told law enforcement she was not aware of methamphetamine in the vehicle and that "Sparky" was a friend who may be moving to Red Lake with her, according to the complaint. Rodriguez later told law enforcement she knew "Sparky" was in possession of meth and that she was a methamphetamine user. She also told law enforcement Dejesus-Zuniga's name was "Louise Dejesus," the same name Dejesus-Zuniga gave law enforcement. Dejesus-Zuniga confessed to owning the backpack but denied knowing there was any methamphetamine inside.

Dejesus-Zuniga, Thunder and Rodriguez are charged with first-degree conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years and a $1 million fine. Dejesus-Zuniga is also charged with giving a peace officer a false name with intent to obstruct justice, which adds another potential 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Thunder, Dejesus-Zuniga and Rodriguez are currently being held in the Beltrami County Jail. Future court dates were not immediately available.



PRIOR LAKE, Minn. – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the City of Prior Lake signed a water purchase agreement on May 28 giving the city access to a new water supply for the next 25 years. SMSC expanded its North Water Treatment Facility on McKenna Road to help accommodate the anticipated long-term needs of the tribe and the city.

The facility expansion, which began last summer, includes an additional well drawing from the Jordan Aquifer, a 300,000-gallon in-ground tank to provide increased water storage and an increase in treatment capacity. Service to the City of Prior Lake is scheduled to begin in June and continue for 25 years. Under the terms of the agreement, the city may purchase up to 700 gallons of water per minute.

SMSC’s expansion of the North Water Treatment Facility will help the tribe and the city keep pace with their projections for future residential and commercial development. The tribe's Land and Natural Resources Department conducts pumping tests and monitors performance data from the Jordan Aquifer. The new well involved in this expansion was strategically located to minimize interference with other wells and maximize the aquifer’s protective cover, which helps prevent pollution of the aquifer.

The North Water Treatment Facility opened in 2007 and has met or exceeded all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Indian Health Service guidelines since its opening.



ONEIDA, Wis. – Chairman Ed Delgado, who weathered a failed recall attempt by the voters of the tribe, came in third in a May 10 primary for the nation's highest office.

The two challengers who beat the incumbent, by a two-to-one margin each, were Greg Mattson and Cristina Danforth. According to preliminary tallies, the former won 343 votes while Danforth earned 324 votes; Delgado's votes totaled 147.

Earlier this year, he won a tribal court fight to remove him from office. A tribal appeals court ruled there were insufficient grounds to remove Delgado.

The Business Committee primary was the second in the tribe’s history. A general election is set for July 12 that includes elections for chairman, vice chair, treasurer, secretary and council members. This summer’s ballot includes vacancies for eight other boards, committees and commissions.

Fifteen candidates emerged from the primary and will run to fill five council seats during the general election.



RAPID CITY, S.D. – Ten people, ranging in age from 18 to 59, from Porcupine, Pine Ridge and Rapid City were arraigned on federal drug charges and pleaded not guilty May 30.

The men and women face charges for conspiracy and distribution of cocaine and marijuana, according to U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson. The conspiracy is alleged to have operated since 2005, according to federal court documents.

The accused are:

Thomas Patrick Brewer, aka Pat Brewer, 48, of Pine Ridge, indicted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine; Gerald LeBeau, AKA Gers LeBeau, 53, of Rapid City, charged with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. If convicted he faces a minimum penalty of five years, up to 40 years in custody and/or a $5 million fine; Neil LeBeau, 33, of Porcupine, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana;

Pablo LeBeau, 18, of Pine Ridge, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine; Twila LeBeau, 59, of Pine Ridge, indicted on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine; Susan Schrader, 52, of Pine Ridge, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, faces of up to 20 years in custody upon conviction;

Holly Wilson, 53, of Pine Ridge, was indicted on conspiracy to distribute cocaine and two counts of distribution of cocaine. If convicted, she could be sentenced to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine; Marie Zephier, 28, of Pine Ridge, is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana; maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine; Whitney Zephier, 26, of Pine Ridge, charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana. The maximum penalty upon conviction is up to 20 years in custody and/or a $1 million fine.

The investigation is being conducted by the Northern Plains Safe Trails Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety.

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