Rosebud Sioux Reservation


Last Updated: 6 years

The Rosebud Sioux Reservation members are descendants of the Sicangu Oyate of the Tetonwan Division of the Great Sioux Nation. 

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe includes the Sicangu or Brule Tribe of the Lakota Nation also known as the Heyata Wicasa or Upper Brule. 
The Lakota Nation includes Upper Brule, Lower Brule, Oglala, Hunkpapa, Blackfoot, Minnecoujou, Sans Arcs, and Two Kettle.


The United States Government as defined by the United States Constitution has governmental relationships with International, Tribal, and State entities.

The Tribal nations have a government-to-government relationship with the United States.

The Tribes of the Great Sioux Nation signed treaties in the 1800’s with the United States which are the legal documents that established our boundaries and recognized our rights as a sovereign government.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribal lands were originally reduced to a reservation with defined boundaries by the U.S. Congress in the Act of March 2, 1889 which identified all the Lakota/Dakota reservations in what is known as the Great Sioux Settlement.

The Tribal governments maintain jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservation including all rights-of-way, waterways, watercourses and streams running through any part of the reservation and to such others lands as may hereafter be added to the reservation under the laws of the United States.

The Tribal government operates under a constitution consistent with the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and approved by the Tribal membership and Tribal Council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

The Tribal Council consists of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, a Sgt-At-Arms, and twenty additional Council members which are elected by the Tribal members.

The Tribal Council President is the administrative head of the Tribe and serves a two year term. The President and Vice-President of the Tribal Council are elected at large, the Secretary, Treasurer, and the Sgt.-At-Arms are appointed by the Tribal Council who are elected from their districts.

Rosebud Reservation Districts:

1. Ideal 4. Ring Thunder/Soldier Creek 7. Swift Bear 10. Black Pipe/He Dog
2. Butte Creek/Okreek 5. St. Francis 8. Parmelee 11. Corn Creek/Horse Creek
3. Antelope 6. Grass Mtn./Upper Cut Meat 9. Rosebud 12. Bull Creek/Milks Camp
Tribal/Agency Headquarters: Rosebud, SD
Counties: Gregory, Mellette, Todd, Tripp, and part of Lyman County, South Dakota
Number of enrolled members: 15,438
Reservation Service Population: 12,763
Unemployment rates: 45%
Language: Lakota and English
Lakota Bands: Upper Brule – Sicangu Oyate


Land Status: Acres
Total Area: 922,759
Tribal Owned: 504,410
Allotted Owned: 417,687
Total Tribal/Allotted Owned: 922,097
Non-Indian Owned: 662


The Rosebud Sioux Tribal members are descendants of the Sicangu Oyate of the Tetonwan Division of the Great Sioux Nation. The Tribal homelands originally recognized by the 1851 and 1868 Treaties were reduced to the current boundaries by the 1889 Act and subsequent Homestead Acts.

The Reservation is located in south central South Dakota and borders the Pine Ridge Reservation on the northwest corner to the Nebraska border which is the southern boundary of the reservation.

The Todd County lines are the northern and eastern borders. The total land area of the Rosebud reservation is 2.8 million acres with 1.6 million acres tribally or individually owned.

The land is an integral part of the Lakota culture and the economic base of the reservation.

The Rosebud Reservation is located in Todd County, south central South Dakota. The Rosebud Service Unit encompasses a great deal more than the reservation proper.

Included in the service unit are the following South Dakota counties; Gregory, Mellette, Todd, and Tripp, plus Cherry County in Nebraska for a total of 5,961 square miles.

There are many small communities within the service unit boundaries. The community of Rosebud is the center for business, commerce, health, government, and the Indian Health Service (IHS) Hospital.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Agency is located in Mission, SD which is 18 miles east of Rosebud, SD. The Tribal Headquarters in Rosebud is approximately 270 miles from the BIA and IHS Aberdeen Area Office.


The Great Sioux Nation is also called The Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nation. The people of the Sioux Nation refer to themselves as Lakota or Dakota which means friend or ally.

The United States government took the word Sioux from (Nadowesioux), which comes from a Chippewa (Ojibway) word which means little snake or enemy. The French traders and trappers who worked with the Chippewa (Ojibway) people shortened the word to Sioux.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe includes the Sicangu or Brule Tribe of the Lakota Nation also known as the Heyata Wicasa or Upper Brule. The Lakota Nation includes Upper Brule, Lower Brule, Oglala, Hunkpapa, Blackfoot, Minnecoujou, Sans Arcs, and Two Kettle.

The Lakotas speak an “L” dialect of Siouan language and were expert horsemen and buffalo hunters on the plains.

The Yankton and Yanktonais are called the Wiceyala or Middle Sioux. Four bands of the Isanti, or Stone Knife People, including the Mdewankanton, Wahpetonwan, Wahpekute, and Sissetonwan comprise the Eastern Division of the Sioux Nation.

The Yanktonias speak the “N” dialect and the Isanti speak the “D” dialect of Siouan language. The Yanktonais and the Isanti were a river-plains people who did some farming as well as buffalo hunting.

The government identified all the Tribes with similar languages as the Sioux people. The oral tradition of our people states that the Lakota and Dakota people were one nation.

The Lakota people moved away and formed their own nation. The Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people still practice their sacred and traditional ceremonies which encompass the seven rites of Lakota religion brought by the White Buffalo Calf Woman.

Social activities such as powwow, rodeos, and races are celebrated in the summer months.

Special powwows held for individuals who accomplished a stage in their lives such as graduation or acceptance in the arm forces with traditional honoring ceremonies, give away, and feasts to celebrate the accomplishments.

The oral tradition is still passed down from the elders to the youth.

The future of our people is in the hands of our children. The children of the Great Sioux Nation will bring us into the 21st century with pride.



The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is part of the Great Sioux Nation known as Sicangu Oyate, or Burnt Thighs, and called Brule by the French. The Great Sioux Nation recognizes our land base in accordance with the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.

The Great Sioux Nation extended from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the eastern Wisconsin. The territory extended from Canada in the north to the Republican River in Kansas in the south.

The Great Sioux Nation was reduced in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty from the Big Horn Mountains in the west to the east side of the Missouri River, the Heart River in North Dakota in the north and the Platte River in Nebraska to the south.

This includes the entire western half of South Dakota.

The Black Hills are located in the center the Great Sioux Nation. The Black Hills are sacred to the Lakota/ Dakota people and today considered an important part of our spiritual lives.

A direct violation of the 1868 Treaty was committed in 1874 by General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry. The 7th Cavalry entered the Black Hills, the center of the Great Sioux Nation and found gold in the Black Hills.

The Gold Rush started the conflict between the United States and Great Sioux Nation. The Great Sioux Nation opposite this violation of the treaty.

The United States Government wanted to buy or rent the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Great Sioux Nation refused to sell or rent their sacred lands.

The 7th Cavalry under General George A. Custer was requested to bring the Sioux bands in and place them on the reservation lands.

On June 15, 1876, the Battle of the Little Big Horn between the 7th Cavalry and Lakota Nation with their allies Cheyenne and Arapahos at Greasy Grass, Montana took place. The Sioux Nation won a victory over General George A. Custer and his 7th Cavalry.

The Great Sioux Nation scattered, some to Canada and others surrendered to the reservations. The United States Government demanded that the Lakota nation move to the reservations.

The people finally surrendered after being cold and hungry and moved on the reservations. The government still insisted buying the Black Hills from the Lakota people. The Sioux (Lakota) Nation refused to sell their sacred lands.

The United States Government introduced the Sell or Starve Bill or the Agreement of 1877. The Lakota people starved but refused to sell their sacred land so the U.S. Congress illegally took the Black Hills from the Great Sioux Nation.

The Allotment Act of 1888 allotted Indian lands into 160-acre lots to individuals to divide the nation.

The Act of 1889 broke up the Great Sioux Nation into smaller reservations, the remainder of which exist today at about one half their original size in 1889.

Short Bull, a Sicangu, traveled west with two other Lakotas in a long journey to speak with Wovoka, a Paiute spiritual leader, about his vision and the meaning of the Ghost Dance.

Many of the Lakota people began to believe in the Ghost Dance experiences as the movement spread to the reservations.

The U. S. Army feared the unity through prayer among the Tribes and ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull on the Standing Rock Reservation. In the process of the arrest Sitting Bull was shot by Indian Police on December 15, 1890.

The Hunkpapa who lived in Sitting Bull’s camp and relatives fled to the south onto the Cheyenne River Reservation. They joined the Big Foot Band in Cherry Creek, South Dakota then traveled to the Pine Ridge reservation to meet with Chief Red Cloud.

The 7th Cavalry caught them at a place called Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. The 7th Cavalry took all the weapons from the Lakota people.

The 7th Cavalry massacred 300 people at Wounded Knee and left the bodies to freeze in the snow. The people of the Great Sioux Nation slowly recovered from this injustice and continue to survive in their homeland.


The average rainfall is 16-17 inches during the summer season. The growing season lasts three months, June to August.

The snow fall averages from moderate too heavy for winter weather. The temperature in the winter can be 30 degrees below zero with a 25 degrees above zero average. The average temperature in the summer is 80 degrees but will range from 69 degrees to 110 degrees from June to August.

The wind averages 18 mph per day annually. The area suffers from occasional droughts in the summer and severe blizzards in the winter. The spring and fall times are very pleasant.


The Rosebud Reservation includes Highway 18 east and west through the middle of the reservation to a junction with Highway 83 which bisects the Rosebud on a north to south line the entire width of the reservation.

Other transportation arteries include BIA Roads running each direction connecting roads in the interior of the Reservation. The Greyhound Bus services are located in Winner, Phillip and Pierre, South Dakota.

The nearest commercial airline is in Pierre, South Dakota about 100 miles north of Rosebud, South Dakota.

Most of the communities on the reservation are serviced by all weather hard top roads. Isolated communities are serviced by gravel roads. Most homes on the reservation are inaccessible during periods of blizzards or heavy rain.

Approximately 76% of the people on the reservation have access to an automobile. No commercial land or air transportation serves the reservation.

A 2,000 foot asphalt runway is located in the center of the reservation at Mission for charter aircraft flights. The Tribe operates a full time ambulance service.



The major economic occupation on the Rosebud Reservation is cattle ranching and farming for a number of Tribal operators.

The second largest employer is the Rosebud Sioux Tribe through the provison of administrative and other services including the Tribal Land Enterprise, education, healthcare and law enforcement.

Tribally operated schools and Sinte Gleska University are large employers. The Rosebud Casino employs a large number of Tribal members. The Tribe also operates a Tribal Ranch, a hunting program for small game, big game, and waterfowl.

The Tribe also manages a buffalo herd for food and game production.

Commercial business by private operators include convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants, laundromats, auto repair shops, a video arcade/fast food shop, and arts and handcrafts, and other service and commercial vendors.

The majority of employment is provided by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Sinte Gleska University, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Health Service.


The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has some of the finest hunting and fishing in the area. Outdoor sports are enjoyed by many residents and non-residents on the Reservation. The Tribe operates the Rosebud Casino and is building a motel for visitors and sportsmen.

The Nation sponsors an annual powwow in the August each year. In addition to the dancing competition, the summer event also includes a rodeo, outdoor concert and a softball tournament.

There are several camping areas and lakes for fishing and water sports including canoeing on the Little White River. During the year other sports activities such as Softball, Volley Ball, and Basketball tournaments are also held.


Golden West Telecommunications provides telephone service to the reservation. Electric utility services for the Rosebud Reservation are provided by Cherry Todd and LaCreek Electric Cooperatives.

The Tribe operates the solid waste and water departments to supply clean water for the district communities from groudwater sources and is constructin the Rosebud Rural Water System as part of the Mni Wiconi Project bringing water from the Missouri River.


The Tribe provides an elderly nutrition program and youth cultural/ recreational activities. There is also an area rodeo club for rodeo sports. Health care is provided by the Indian Health Service at the Health Center Hospital and Clinic. The Tribal Health Department provides a number of health services including the Community Health Representative Program, and mental health and dental services. The Health Department also provides examinations and eyeglasses to all residents at reduced rates. The Ambulance Service provides emergency health care service to all areas of the reservation.


The Rosebud Housing Authority manages over 1000 housing units in the district communities and on rural scattered sites through HUD Low Rent and Mutual Help home ownership housing programs.

Other housing is available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service for their employees. Private housing stock is limited.


The Rosebud Sioux Tribe desires to continue progress in providing for our people and the development of increased self-sufficiency.

There are plans underway to develop natural and cultural resources to preserve traditions and educate Tribal members and non-members, and strengthen the economy on the reservation.

The Nation will continue to search for ways to maintain our culture and develop new economic opportunities for our future generations.

Environmental Summary:

Reservation Water System: Water is the key to increasing the quality of life and promoting full economic development on the Rosebud Reservation. An adequate supply of good quality water is needed by the 12,783 Indians living on the reservation.

Problems with water quality and inadequate supply are common throughout the reservation. This condition has a detrimental effect on health and quality of life as well as deterring economic growth.

The availability of a plentiful and high quality water supply is vital to the health and well being of the people living on the Rosebud Reservation. The level of health and quality of life of the general population is directly related to the quality of their domestic water supply.

Many residents currently depend on poorly-constructed or low- capacity individual wells. These sources are often contaminated with bacteria or undesirable minerals, provide an inadequate quantity of water, and are costly to maintain and operate. Many people wish to return to their family lands or relocate to rural areas to raise their families but are limited by the unavailability of water.

Agriculture is the primary industry on the Rosebud Reservation and the key to the full development of this industry is water. Surface water in small streams, lakes, and dugouts is scattered throughout the area.

Surface water, however, is a unreliable year-round supply and generally available only during the wet periods of spring. During drought periods, these sources often dry up, and livestock must be sold or moved off the reservation.

Shallow groundwater is scarce and unreliable and deep groundwater, while generally more plentiful, is highly mineralized and of poor quality.

This lack of an adequate water supply has also reduced the livestock production on the reservation.

The grazing lands cannot be fully utilized and valuable resource is wasted. The lack of stability in the production of feeder-cattle also discourages related industrial development such as cattle feeding, packing plants, and other value-added industries.

Hydrologic Setting: Shallow groundwater is not obtainable on most of the Rosebud Reservation, and where it is found, it is often of poor quality. Surface waters, though valuable and widely distributed resources, are undependable because of scanty and erratic precipitation.

Artesian water from deeply buried bedrock aquifers underlies all of the reservation. These aquifers are not, and probably will not become highly developed sources of water because of the high-to-very-high salinity and other mineral content of artesian water in most of the area.

Water Availability and Use: The Bureau of Indian Affairs NARIS data identifies a total of 922,759 acres of farmland on the Rosebud Reservation including irrigated acres. Surface water from lakes, rivers, and aquifers are the major water source for the reservation.

Other reservation streams have extremely variable flow patterns and are not reliable enough for a year-round supply. With the exception of the Oglala Aquifer, groundwater is not as abundant as surface water nor is the quality as high and where available it is usually adequate for only small scale use.

This impacts both domestic and livestock water supplies and expansion therein. For these reasons, the Tribe is researching water development needs and projects for the reservation.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe is included in the Mni Wiconi Water Project which is in the final planning and early construction stage.

The project will provide water from the Missouri River near Ft. Pierre, SD to the Indian communities on the Rosebud Reservation, as well as the Lower Brule and Pine Ridge Reservations and several non-Indian communities in Lyman and Jones Counties.

This system is now under construction with completion expected in eight years. This project will meet the reservation population needs for the first time in history.

Terrain: Rolling hills, woodlands, river valleys, stock dams, and lakes dominate the reservation.

Tribal Lands Acres
Agriculture 67,051
Grazing 809,993
Forestry 43,109
Other 2,606
Total: 922,759



Environmental Problem Statement: In 1997, Tribal environmental staff identified groundwater contamination from hydrocarbons, arsenic, and nitrates is deteriorating the drinking water quality at two communities on the reservation as the primary environmental problem facing the Tribe.