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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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