Welch Dakota Papers

little story no. 14 welchThe A.B. Welch Collection contains over 4000 pages of interviews, photographs, historic letters and documents pertaining to the Sioux, Mandan, Arikara and Hidatsa born in the mid 1800’s.

The bulk of the Welch Dakota Papers was gathered after A.B. Welch’s adoption by the Sioux Nation and Chief John Grass in 1913 up until his death in 1945.

His personal ambition was to prove that his adopted father, Chief John Grass, was one of the prominent strategists of battle of the Little Big Horn. The black and white truth was never learned because relatives of Chief John Grass still feared retribution from Washington D.C.

This collection consists of:

  •  stories of battles told to him by his adopted father and other warriors who were born in the early 1800’s
  • stories related to customs, ceremonies, mythology, sacred places and everyday life
  • short biographies of several hundred individuals
  • 2 unpublished manuscripts Welch was writing before his death, based on stories told to him
  • Welch’s personal diaries of the Phillipine Insurrection 1898 – 99, the “Mexican War” 1917 and from the trenches of France in 1918.
  • Numerous photographs, fully annotated with names, dates, places and events
  • Transcriptions of  Indian Agent John McLaughlin’s Copy Books from 1876 and 1890-91

This material was given to his great nephew, Everett Cox, around 1960 as an unsorted pile of looseleaf binders, loose pages, photographs, letters and newspaper clippings.  The binders contained a progression of Welch’s notes over time.  Indexes were missing for all this material , hence it had to be resorted and cataloged (some of his inter-related notes, photos, etc., showing up in several of the sections).   Several hundred onion-skin letters in Indian Agent’s copy books were typed so that a detailed record survives after the original books were donated to National Archives.

Once the basic material was placed in a semblance of order, it took year’s of retyping and compiling to finalize its initial  presentation in 2006.

In 2006 copies of the Welch Dakota Papers were presented to the Sioux at Standing Rock by Everett Cox. “Standing Rock Sioux tribal preservation officer, Tim Mintz, described the recent awareness of Welch’s manuscripts to the crowd of 150 as a ‘community gift’ to the people of Cannon Ball. After the ceremony Mintz said, the combination of photographs and family histories will answer many questions Indian people have about their relatives in the 1900 to 1950 timeframe.” Bismarck Tribune.

These papers are now presented in this website to share this lost oral history of the Dakota Tribes.