Reservation Series: Rosebud

Enrolled Tribal Members:  24,426 

# of People on the Reservation:   10,869

# Programs Partnering with NRC:  51  

Sovereign Nation Since:  1889

Official Tribal Web Site:

Photo Credits:

Beadwork                Buffalo                  Wigwam                  Wind Turbine


A Bit of Culture:  The Rosebud Sioux Tribe or Sicangu Oyate (meaning “Burnt Thigh” nation) is one of the Seven Original Council Fires or bands collectively known as the Sioux. The Sicangu Sioux speak the Lakota dialect (as opposed to the Nakota or Dakota dialect used by other Sioux tribes). The Sicangu Sioux are skilled in bead and quill work. Their traditional housing was a Tipi or a Wigwam, the latter a domed dwellings made of wooden poles and roofing material such as bark or grass as pictured above.

A Bit of History:  The Rosebud Sioux Tribe was moved five times before becoming an established sovereign nation in 1889. This was due to various homestead acts that the federal government used to repeatedly reduce acreage promised to the Rosebud people.  

Spotted Tail (public domain photo)

One notable leader of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was Sinte Gleska, otherwise known as Spotted Tail (1823-1881).

A relative of Crazy Horse and a member of the Brulé Sioux (a French reference for the Burnt Thigh people), Spotted Tail led the Sioux people in battles against the Pawnee.

Spotted Tail later became a leader of the peace faction and a statesman for the people. 

The Land: The Rosebud Sioux Reservation encompasses 922,759 acres of Plains grasslands, Ponderosa pine forest, and valleys. There are 20 established communities within the reservation borders. The tribal administration is located in one of these communities that, like the reservation, is named Rosebud. Another well populated community is Mission. The Rosebud Reservation spans the counties of Todd, Mellette, Tripp, and Lyman in South Dakota, the largest of which is Todd County. Rosebud enjoys a prairie wind that averages 14 mph; this bodes well for their interest in wind energy. In the winter, Rosebud residents may see snow drifts as high as 10 feet.

Current Economy: The main occupation on the Rosebud Reservation is cattle ranching and farming. The tribe successfully started a project to reintroduce a growing buffalo herd onto their land. In addition to providing healthy sustenance, this could one day help the Rosebud economy. Other employment sources include tribal programs such as administrative offices, the BIA, and Indian Health Services.  Several K-12 schools and the Sinte Gleska University (a tribal college founded in 1973) also offer employment opportunities for Rosebud residents. The tribe proudly operates a casino that is powered almost entirely from a wind turbine energy system. Although profits are limited due to its rural location, the casino does provide an additional source of tribal jobs and economic activity within the local community.

Education & Income:  Todd County ranks as the second poorest county in the U.S. The unemployment rate is over 80% due to lack of opportunity. About 76% of the employed labor force on Rosebud lives below poverty level. About 58% of people under the age of 18 in Todd County live below poverty level (on and off reservation).  Regarding lodging, about 29% of the people on the Rosebud Reservation are homeless and 59% live in substandard housing. About one-third of students on the Rosebud Reservation have a high school diploma.  Sadly, the Rosebud Reservation is one of two reservations with the lowest life expectancy rate. Suicide is also a prevalent risk. Over a span of 14 months (2006-07), Rosebud law enforcement responded to 6 suicides and 244 suicide attempts. The Rosebud people draw strength and hope from family, culture, and traditions, as they continue to make positive strides toward sufficient and sustainable economic solutions. 

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  1. Posted November 16, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Hurrah, that’s what I was looking for, Thanks admin of this website.

  2. Miriam Sullivan
    Posted November 18, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    May God bless the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and their people— May the balance of 2016 & 2017 be a very bright & successful year with more good paying jobs & and organic crops, etc,… & more hope & calm, advancement for my dear American friends on RST reservation…

  3. Posted February 13, 2019 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Is there going to be a part two…?

    • Posted February 13, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Roofer, thanks for your interest. We will have another Rosebud post around mid-year.

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