Originally known as the Upper Platte Agency, it was renamed Whetstone Agency in 1869, then Spotted Tail Agency in 1874, before finally acquiring the name Rosebud in 1878. The Agency served the Sicangu Lakota people led by Spotted Tail as well as members of the Sans Arcs, Oglala, Hunkpapa and Miniconjou bands.
Whetstone Agency was located on the Missouri River where the free flowing whiskey trade caused Spotted Tail to insist upon relocating the Agency away from accessible river traffic. The Agency first located on the White River near the Nebraska-Dakota border, then moved to Beaver Creek in northwestern Nebraska. A year later, it was moved to the site of the old Ponca Agency on the Missouri River above Yankton. It finally located on Rosebud Creek, in 1878, near its junction with the south fork of the White River.
Chief Milk (an Oglala) and his band were the first to settle on the Rosebud, making their home north of Bonesteel. Swift Bear followed and eventually settled south of Burke on Ponca Creek. Later Medicine Bull settled south of the White River; Good Voice established his band at Oak Creek; Quick Bear, Red Fish, and Red Leaf located in the Norris area, with Red Leaf later moving north of Burke. Other prominent headmen at Rosebud were He Dog, Two Strike, Hollow Horn Bear, Ring Thunder, Stranger Horse, and Yellow Hair.
Today the Rosebud Reservation is situated north of the Nebraska border in central South Dakota in Todd County. It has a land base of 882,416 acres. U. S. Congressman Ben Reifel and nationally renowned opera singer, White Eagle, were Rosebud tribal members.