Tag Archives: Pine Ridge

Progress, Of Sorts

Indian Children on Flathead Reservation, 1907, courtesy Library of Congress

Indian Children on Flathead Reservation, 1907, courtesy Library of Congress

1910, this first decade of the new century, came in the middle of the Progressive Era. Reformers fought to limit child labor, break up monopolies, and help working men earn a fair wage.

The Indian Bureau tried to make a few strides, as well. It began inspecting homes on reservations, beginning with the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.* Two special physicians visited more than 200 homes and examined 1,266 people. Of this number, 690 had trachoma and 164 had some form of tuberculosis. This dismaying state of affairs undoubtedly played out on most other reservations.

The Indian Bureau’s medical supervisor pushed to have schools inspected for sanitation, hygiene, and ventilation. Three reservations with a high number of day schools (Cheyenne River, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud) had a physician assigned to them. He made regular visits to check on the health of pupils and inspect the schools.

Indian Schoolchildren, Mt. Pleasant, MI

Indian Schoolchildren, Mt. Pleasant, MI

*Statistics are taken from the 1910 “Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to the Secretary of the Interior.” (Fiscal year ending June 30, 1910).

Indian Children, Mescalero Reservation, N.M., circa 1936, courtesty Library of Congress

Indian Children, Mescalero Reservation, N.M., circa 1936, courtesty Library of Congress

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Who Wants to Help?

Sioux Delegation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Sioux Delegation, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Herbert Welsh (1851 – 1941) is associated most closely with the Indian Rights Association (IRA). The first meeting of the organization was held in his home on December 15, 1882; he served as Executive Secretary for many years. 

Welsh was a prosperous Philadelphian who traveled to Dakota Territory to visit the Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. He came home with a new understanding of the harsh life so many Native Americans faced as wards of the government. He and the other founding members of the IRA were committed to righting the wrongs done to Native Americans and publicizing their situation.

His intentions were good, but misguided. Welsh wrote in 1882, “When this work shall be completed the Indian will cease to exist as a man, apart from other men, a stumbling block in the pathway of civilization . . . the greater blessings which he or his friends could desire will be his, – an honorable absorption into the common life of the people of the United States.”

Council of Indians at Pine Ridge, January 17, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

Council of Indians at Pine Ridge, January 17, 1891, courtesy Library of Congress

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