My tribe has decided to cut ourselves per-capita payments as well, since our various businesses are rather successful. It works like this:
Tribal people meet for a yearly/biyearly meeting. In my tribe, this is the third weekend in March. We discuss everything from winter wood cutting for the elders and how to best diversify our general income. A few decades ago, the tribe (about 850 adults at the time) pooled resources (cuts from their own pay checks, or volunteered services such as carpentry skills and whatnot, or donated lands, etc...) and opened up a gas station. From there, every few years, we create or buy a new business. We now are collective multi-millionaires. Yet, we do not pay our individual selves out of this money, instead, we re-invest and set aside a small portion for educational/healthcare services and governmental operation costs. Remember, we are sovereign nations. A tribe is like a cross between its own country and state while existing in the borders of the U.S.
Now, since all of our businesses are doing so well (with the exception of our excavating business...that was a total waste...it just barely covers its own cost of operation, but whatever) we have decided to cut ourselves two "bonus" checks a year. Once around the holidays and once in the early spring. Combined, they make a total of $2240 a year per person. This averages out to $186 a month. Not exactly rolling in the dough...lol
But remember, we don't get this for being "indian". We get this because we are Suquamish (my tribe) and as a tribe, the Suquamish are collective business owners. We are all share holders in Port Madison Enterprises (yes, even the village idiots and the occasional meth head...luckily the vast majority of us have our head on straight), and our board of directors is elected by us. We get together once a year to discuss the direction we would like to take our investments.
It all started out with a group of really poor people fresh out of genocide (my parents'/ grandparents generation), with the remaining sense of tribalism still in-tact and the will to find ways to carry our people into the dramatically changing culture of the 20th century. Like the Seminole, and a handful of other tribes, we are succeeding.
IF your buddy gets $5,000 a month ( which i think is an exaggeration, he might be pulling your leg) it is because his tribe is either raking it in BIG time with some of their businesses and have voted to cut each share holder a chunk of the profits (which he would be simply for being enrolled in the tribe, not just descended, but actually listed on their enrollment records) OR his family has leased property or resources and that money is part of the compensation (just like how people get lease dollars for having a cell tower put on their property, some natives lease their land for mineral mining or oil drilling)
And, he sounds like a total douche bag. But Paris Hilton is a total douche bag and her parents' money allows her to be one, when she totally doesn't deserve it. It sounds like your friend takes advantage of his privilege similarly. I hate seeing people be wasteful...but...its his money to waste. he is hurting nobody but himself and his family.
You dont have to live on the rez to be one of us...just connected to the community and descended from the same ancestors.