Rosebud Indian Reservation

The Rosebud Indian Reservation (RIR) is an Indian reservation in South Dakota, United States. It is the home of the federally recognized Sicangu Oyate (the Upper Brulé Sioux Nation) – also known as Sicangu Lakota, and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST), a branch of the Lakota people. The Lakota name Sicangu Oyate translates into English as "Burnt Thigh Nation"; the French term "Brulé Sioux" is also used.

Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation

Location in South Dakota
TribeRosebud Sioux Tribe
CountryUnited States
StateSouth Dakota
Todd (all)
  BodyRosebud Sioux Tribal Council
  PresidentRodney M. Bordeaux
  Vice-PresidentScott Herman
  TreasurerWayne Boyd
  SecretaryLinda L. Marshall
  Total5,103.214 km2 (1,970.362 sq mi)
  Density2.2/km2 (5.8/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
  Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)

The Rosebud Indian Reservation was established in 1889 after the United States' partition of the Great Sioux Reservation. Created in 1868 by the Treaty of Fort Laramie, the Great Sioux Reservation originally covered all of West River, South Dakota (the area west of the Missouri River), as well as part of northern Nebraska and eastern Montana.

The reservation includes all of Todd County, South Dakota, and communities and lands in the four adjacent counties.

Geography and population

The RIR is located in south central South Dakota, and presently includes within its recognized border all of Todd County, an unincorporated county of South Dakota. However, the Oyate also has communities and extensive lands and populations in the four adjacent counties, which were once within the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) boundaries: Tripp, Lyman, Mellette, and Gregory counties, all in South Dakota. Mellette County, especially, has extensive off-reservation trust land, comprising 33.35 percent of its land area, where 40.23 percent of the Sicangu Oyate population lives.

The total land area of the reservation and its trust lands is 1,970.362 sq mi (5,103.214 km²) with a population of 10,469 in the 2000 census.[3] The main reservation (Todd County) has a land area of 1,388.124 sq mi (3,595.225 km²) and a population of 9,050. The RIR is bounded on the south by Cherry County, Nebraska, on the west by the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, on the north by the White River, and originally, on the east by the Missouri River.

The Oyate capital is the unincorporated town of Rosebud, established when the Spotted Tail Indian Agency (named after the 19th-century war chief, whose Lakota name was Sinte Gleska) to the banks of Rosebud Creek near its confluence with the Little White River. It was previously located in northwestern Nebraska. The largest town on the reservation is Mission, served by the intersections of US Highways 18 and 83.

Mission's near neighbor of Antelope is one of the many tribal band communities established in the late 1870s. It has grown since then. Other major towns in the reservation are Saint Francis, located southwest of Rosebud. It is the home of Saint Francis Indian School, a private Catholic institution first established as a mission school. Saint Francis, with a current population of about 2000, is the largest incorporated town in South Dakota without a state highway for access.

Located on the Great Plains, just north of the Nebraska Sandhills, Rosebud Indian Reservation has large areas of Ponderosa Pine forest scattered in its grasslands. Deep valleys are defined by steep hills and ravines, often with lakes dotting the deeper valleys.

Economy and services

The RST owns and operates Rosebud Casino, located on U.S. Route 83 just north of the Nebraska border. Nearby is a fuel plaza, featuring truck parking and a convenience store. Power for the casino is furnished in part by one of the nation's first tribally owned electricity-generating wind turbines. In the early 21st century, the tribe built a new residential development, Sicangu Village, along Highway 83 near the casino and the state line.

Like numerous other Native American tribes, the Rosebud government decided to legalize alcohol sales on the reservation. This enables it to use sales taxes and other revenues generated for the welfare and health of the tribe. It directly polices and regulates the use of alcohol in an effort to reduce abuses.

The RST population is estimated at 25,000 (2005). It is served by the Oyate administration and agencies. In addition, the tribe is served by the BIA Rosebud Agency, Todd County School District, Saint Francis Indian School, Saint Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota; and the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital.

It has developed Sinte Gleska University on the reservation. The tribal university is named after the 19th-century Sioux war chief and statesman, whose name in English was Spotted Tail.

The tribe has suffered from terrible conditions at the IHS hospital. Because the IHS did not maintain standards, in November 2015 the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it would no longer reimburse for services at the ER, as conditions were so poor. The ER was closed. For seven months, citizens on the reservation had no access to ER services. Five babies were born in ambulances en route to the nearest hospitals -50 miles away- and nine people died during emergency transport to other health facilities. CMS announced on July 14, 2016 that the emergency department would re-open the next day.[4]

Representative Kristi Noem, R-South Dakota, has authored legislation to improve conditions and staff at IHS facilities. She has testified before Congress to gain support for the legislation.[4]

The Tribe also owns QCredit, an online financial services company. The Tribe currently works with financial technology vendor Think Finance for assistance with compliance management, risk management, and loan services.[5]

General information


Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the federally recognized Rosebud Sioux Tribe (RST) re-established self-government. It adopted a constitution and bylaws, to take back many responsibilities for internal management from the BIA. It followed the model of elected government: president, vice-president, and representative council, adopted by many Native American nations. At the time and since then, many tribal members opposed the elected government, preferring their traditional form of hereditary clan chiefs selected for life, contingent on approval by women elders, and a tribal council that operated by consensus.

Both women and male elders have continued to have influence within the nation, particularly among those who have followed more traditional lives. At times the political factions have developed and continued along ethnic and cultural lines, with full-blood Sioux following traditional ways. Others, sometimes of mixed-blood or having had more urban or European-American experiences, support the elected government.

The short two-year terms of office can make it difficult for elected officials to carry out projects over the long term. In addition, BIA officials and police retain roles on the reservations, which the historian Akim Reinhardt calls a form of "indirect colonialism".[7]

  • Law: charter, constitution, and bylaws (approved November 23, 1935)
  • Governing Body: Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council (20 members)
  • Executive Officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant-At-Arms


  • Primary elections, fourth Thursday of August; general elections, fourth Thursday of October
  • President and vice-president elected at large for two-year terms; Tribal Council elected from members' districts every two years; Council appoints the secretary, treasurer, and sergeant-at-arms
  • Number of election districts: 13
  • Proportion of representatives: one representative per 750 members

Council meetings

Education and media

  • St. Francis Indian School (Sicangu Oyate Ho, Inc.)
  • St. Joseph's Indian School, Chamberlain, South Dakota
  • Todd County High School, Mission, South Dakota (Todd County School District 66-1)
  • White River School District K-12, White River, South Dakota
  • Tribal College: Sinte Gleska University, Mission
  • Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center, located since 1991 in an adapted 1968 building on the campus of St. Joseph's Indian School.[8]
  • Rosebud Media Network: Hits 96 (KINI) is a Commercialized radio station and KOYA 88.1 FM is a Non-Profit radio station both located in St. Francis, South Dakota and both are tribally owned.
  • Newspaper: Todd County Tribune, Mission, SD.
  • Newspaper: Sicangu Sun-Times, Rosebud. Founded in 1990 as an independent weekly, the newspaper is Sicangu-owned. It celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015. The Sicangu Sun-Times is sold on newsstands across the Rosebud Indian Reservation and maintains a website at: It also has newsstands in Winner, South Dakota; Valentine, Nebraska; and on three other South Dakota Indian reservations. Due to area poverty, the newspaper survives on limited advertising.

The Sun-Times is the only news outlet to cover political news on the reservation, along with police, court and community news. An economic decline forced the paper to cut back to a monthly edition in 2010.[9]

Notable tribal members and residents

  • Albert White Hat Sr.- Author, language teacher, and leader.
  • Janeen Antoine (Sicangu Lakota), curator, educator, and founder in 1983 of the American Indian Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, grew up on the Rosebud Reservation. Her gallery was one of the first in the nation to feature contemporary American Indian art and is important in encouraging new work.[6] She is a co-host of Bay Native Circle, a weekly radio program broadcast on Wednesday evenings on Pacifica Radio station KPFA-FM, Berkeley.
  • Bob Barker grew up on the reservation, where his mother was a teacher. For 35 years, Barker was the host of television's hit game show The Price Is Right.[10]
  • Plenty Horses (1869–1933), a highly educated Lakota who was at the Drexel Mission Fight and was charged with the murder of Lieutenant Edward W. Casey soon after the Wounded Knee Massacre, but acquitted as the jury found a state of war had existed.[11]
  • Paul Eagle Star, (1864-1891) (Brulé Sioux), member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
  • Chief Iron Shell, led the Brulé Orphan Band during the Powder River War of 1866-1868.
  • Troy Heinert (Rosebud Sioux), politician, businessman, and rodeo pick-up rider. He was elected to the South Dakota House in 2012 and to the SD Senate in 2014; he is Senate Assistant Minority Leader
  • Hollow Horn Bear, son of Iron Shell, Sioux leader at the Fetterman Fight. He served as head of Indian police at the Rosebud Agency, and arrested Crow Dog for the murder of Spotted Tail.
  • Joseph M. Marshall III, Lakota historian and writer, winner of the 2008 PEN/Beyond Margins Award for one of his histories
  • Benjamin "Ben" Reifel (Rosebud Sioux) (1906-1990), five-term U.S. Congressman, served in the U.S. Army, worked as a field officer and regional administrator for the BIA, and earned master's and doctoral degrees in public administration from Harvard University. Reifel was elected as US Representative in 1960 and served until his retirement in 1971.
  • Yvette Roubideaux (Rosebud Sioux), M.D., M.P.H., was Director of the United States Indian Health Service (IHS), appointed in 2009 as the first woman to hold the position.
  • Chief Sinte Gleska, translated as "Spotted Tail" (1823-1881), was a war chief and later worked for peace. He was a Brulé Sioux relative of Crazy Horse. In 1868 he signed a peace treaty with the US in 1868 to cede lands. Sinte Gleska University, a Lakota Tribal college, is named for him.
  • Richard Twiss (1954-2013), founder of Wiconi International ministry.
  • Chauncey Yellow Robe ("Kills in the Woods") (Canowicakte) (1867-1930), was an educator, lecturer and Native American activist. Raised in the Sicangu Lakota tradition, he was a founding member of the Society of American Indians. He fought for American Indian citizenship during the Progressive Era, and collaborated with American Museum of Natural History to produce The Silent Enemy, the first movie and documentary with an all-Indian cast.
  • Dyani White Hawk (born 1976), Sicangu artist and former curator of All My Relations Arts gallery
  • Terry L. Pechota, American attorney who was the 32nd United States Attorney for the District of South Dakota; nominated by Jimmy Carter, confirmed by United States Senate 1979.
  • Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota rapper
  • Susan Allen, the first Native American woman elected to the Minnesota state legislature, and the first openly lesbian Native American to win election to a state legislature.[12]

In United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, the people of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation joined the Oglala Lakota and other Sioux nations in suing the federal government in a land claim for its taking of the Black Hills in the late 19th century. In 1980 the case was heard by the United States Supreme Court, which agreed with the nations that the US had acted illegally in 1877. The US government offered financial compensation, which the Sioux have refused. They still demand the return of the land to their nation. The compensation fund is earning interest and has increased in value.

On April 28, 2016, members of the Rosebud Indian Reservation announced they were suing the federal government for its closure of the only emergency room on its reservation, which is operated by Indian Health Services. The ER was closed because of conditions so poor that Medicaid (CMS) would not reimburse for its services. The ER had been closed for nearly five months, leaving people on the reservation without services. They have to travel 50 miles to reach another hospital.[13] The emergency department was re-opened after seven months on July 15, 2016.


The Rosebud Sioux Reservation has 20 communities represented on its tribal council:


  1. "Tribal Council". Retrieved 2019-07-24.
  2. 2013-2017 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. "My Tribal Area". United States Census Bureau.
  3. Rosebud Reservation and Off-Reservation Trust Land, South Dakota. United States Census Bureau.
  4. Tanya H. Lee, " 'Where you can legally kill Indians': Winnebago treasurer on IHS hospitals", Indian Country News, 15 July 2016; accessed 16 July 2016
  5. "Frequently Asked Questions | Q Credit". Archived from the original on 2017-01-09. Retrieved 2017-01-08.
  6. "Native American Heritage Month: S.F. gallery director wins praise for breaking with past", San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Nov 1995 (retrieved 20 Dec 2009)
  7. Ruling Pine Ridge: Oglala Lakota Politics from the IRA to Wounded Knee, Texas Tech University Press, 2007
  8. "About the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center", Official website; accessed 16 July 2016
  9. Interviews: SST Chief Editor PR Gregg-Bear, SST Business Manager Nancy Brooks, RST Finance Officer James Wike, RST President William Kindle, RST Council Rep. Calvin "Hawkeye" Waln, Newsstand: AllStop Grocery Store owner Wes Colombe, Rosebud, South Dakota; Buche Foods Mission Manager Mike Husman, Mission, South Dakota
  10. "Bob Barker", Yahoo News
  11. Roger L. Di Silvestro, The Shadow of Wounded Knee: The Untold Final Story of the Indian Wars, p. 203
  12. "Susan L. Allen | Jacobson Law Group". Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  13. "South Dakota Tribe Sues Feds for ER Closure", ABC News, 28 April 2016

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