Rosebud Sioux tribal council votes to give itself $10k bonuses

The RST tribal council voted to give itself a “$10,000 lump salary increase for FY’23.” The money for the bonus comes from American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 4:54 PM MST
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MISSION, S.D. - By a vote of seven to six on Monday, The Rosebud Sioux Tribal council voted in favor of approving a “lump sum” payment of $10,000 to each “council member and officer.”

Meeting minutes reflecting how members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal council voted on a...
Meeting minutes reflecting how members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribal council voted on a resolution that gave themselves a $10,000 raise.(Submitted)

The funds are coming out of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021. According to the Treasury Department, the tribe received about $200 million from that legislation.

While meetings of the tribal council are normally recorded and uploaded online, this one was not because of equipment failure.

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

“There is not a whole lot of transparency when it comes to the tribal administration,” said Rylin Whipple, enrolled member with RST.

President Scott Herman did not vote on the resolution, and would only vote on decisions in the event of a tie.

“The decision was based off trying to be comparable to other council members and tribes, we are one of the lowest paying tribes for council members in South Dakota,” Herman explained.

Herman says that if he would have had a vote on the matter, he would have voted no. He says that the resolution was pushed through the process. Typically, resolutions have to go through a committee process, similar to how other legislative bodies operate. But Herman says that this one did not.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe Resolution approving $10k bonuses for tribal members.
Rosebud Sioux Tribe Resolution approving $10k bonuses for tribal members.(Submitted)

Herman, who has served as President since 2021, also argues that tribal council members had not gotten a raise since 2006.

“There are a lot of people out here who feel their needs should be taken care of first,” Herman explained. “With ARPA funds, we got quite a few dollars, and we gave 85% of that back to the people. I do not think there should be any complaining.”

RST was decimated in December by brutal winter storms. Parts of the reservation saw several feet of snow fall, and extreme cold temperatures that lasted several weeks.

The storms led to disagreements between tribal and state officials. Tribal officials argued the state needed to do more to help those suffering on the reservations from the storm, while the state pointed to extensive support provided to the tribes in the aftermath. On December 16th, Herman declared a state of emergency on the reservation while attending the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI) in Rapid City.

RST officials, along with South Dakota’s congressional delegation, are still pushing the Biden Administration to make a presidential disaster declaration.

“There was a blame game going on between the tribe, the Governor’s office, and the federal government,” Whipple said. “Rather than giving themselves a $10,000 pay raise, they should have bought the equipment they needed in case we do go through another snow storm like that.”