By KRISTI EATON
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) _ The Oglala Sioux Tribe will open up a new grocery store on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation within days of the forced closure of the reservation's sole grocery store, the president of the tribe announced Tuesday.
In an open letter to tribal members, Oglala Sioux tribal president Bryan Brewer said the tribe will open its own grocery store within 48 hours of the closing of Sioux Nation Shopping Center and that no tribal members will lose their jobs because of the change.
The tribal council unanimously voted in May to stop leasing the building and the land to Hi-Way 20, the owner of Sioux Nation, effective Aug. 4. Brewer said the decision was necessary because of health violations.
"The Tribe made this decision after conducting an extensive investigation, which revealed that Hi-Way 20 has committed serious and repeated violations of the lease and operated the grocery store in a manner that is contrary to the public health and welfare of the Tribe, its members, and other residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,'' Brewer wrote in the letter.
He said the new store would be clean, safe and sanitary and offer fresh, reasonably priced items. In addition, he said no tribal members will lose their jobs and current employees will be given the opportunity to work full-time with benefits and have opportunities for advancement.
A tribal spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking additional details on the store and its creation for residents of the reservation, which spans much of southwestern South Dakota.
Terry Pechota, a Rapid City-based lawyer for Hi-Way 20, denied any health violations at Sioux Nation.
"We're still hopeful we can meet with the tribe and come to some resolution,'' he said, adding that legal action may be necessary otherwise.
This is not the first time the tribe has butted heads with the owners. Sioux Nation was closed down for about a week a year ago over complaints about outdated meat.