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Council Bonuses On The Rosebud Reservation Cause Controversy

(2/7/23)–Approximately two months after severe winter weather created a state of emergency on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, after reports of  lack of money to deal with extreme weather conditions (such as equipment and infrastructure) , the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council has approved a payment of $10,000 to each tribal council member and officers.

The tribe earlier blamed the loss of life, business and property from the winter storms on the lack of a quick response, financial, and equipment resources from the state of South Dakota and the federal government.

The recent move by the council has drawn strong criticism from members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe who question why the money could not have been spent on new heavy duty winter equipment, or other “essential items.”

Council President Scott Herman said the decision to give the bonuses was to make compensation of council members and officers comparable to other tribes in the state, saying, “We are one of the lowest paying tribes for council members in South Dakota.” Herman, who has served as President since 2021, also argued that tribal council members had not gotten a raise since 2006.

A lack of transparency of the council meeting where the $10,000 bonuses were approved has also come under scrutiny. While meetings of the tribal council are normally recorded and uploaded online, this one was not because of equipment failure.

The bonuses are being paid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds received by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. According to the Treasury Department, the tribe received about $200 million from the legislation.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council is currently made up of 24 elected positions, four officers (President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer) and 20 council representatives. That would translate to approximately $480,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds being used to pay bonuses.

Rosebud Sioux Tribal officials, along with South Dakota’s congressional delegation, continue to lobby the Biden Administration for a presidential disaster declaration.


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