John Grass, or Charging Bear, was a beloved leader of the Teton Sioux and an ardent supporter of the war effort. July of 1917, although weakened by a prolonged illness, the elderly chief accepted the vice-chairmanship of the Red Cross for Sioux County. He stated that as a young man he went to war many times, but his thoughts were not of death but of honor. Although it caused him great grief to see his children going into battle, there was joy in his heart to know they were not cowards.
His adopted son, Major A. B. Welch, and his grandson, Albert Grass, had both joined Company I of the Second Regiment of the North Dakota National Guard. He was glad to see his son and grandson go to war, and that their patriotic influences were stronger than their fear of death. He was sure they would not bring disgrace upon the family. He saw death in battle as an honorable thing, and he had influenced almost two hundred young men from Standing Rock to join the war effort.
However, John Grass, a veteran of many battles, would not live to see the war come to an end, his death occurring on May 10, 1918. And on this date that same year, the casualty list brought the news to Standing Rock that Albert Grass had been killed in action on the battlefields of France. He was the first member of the Standing Rock Reservation to give his life. The news arrived during the Sioux County Indian Fair where thousands of Standing Rock residents had gathered for the festival. The news spread rapidly. Soon the wail of the women, mourning for a warrior lost in battle, was heard throughout the camp. Three thousand men and women at the encampment kept a memorial dance going throughout the night.
Initially, the report had stated that Albert Grass, or Two Bears, was a victim of poisonous gas, however news soon arrived that showed actions over and above the call of duty. According to General Order No. 1 issued by the headquarters of the 1st Division, Albert Grass attacked a machine gun nest, killing or wounding twenty-four German soldiers before receiving the fatal bullet that took his life. Only two months after the death of his grandfather, he too entered the Spirit World. A recipient of the Silver Star, he would have made his grandfather proud of the honor he brought to his name.
Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis
The Bismarck Tribune, August 13, 1917
Sioux County Pioneer, May 16, 1918
Ibid.; September 19, 1918
Oakes Times, December 19, 1918
Roster of the Men and Women Who Served in the Army or Naval Service (Including the Marine Corps) of the United States or Its Allies from the State of North Dakota in the Great War, 1917-1918; by the Adjutant General’s Office; 1931.