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Alfred Burton Welch


Alfred Burton Welch was born in September 1874 in Afton, IA. He spent a good chunk of his childhood in South Dakota. He had an extensive military career; it began with a tour of duty during the Philippine Insurrection. He moved to Mandan sometime around 1905, and in 1906, he became instrumental in the organization of Company F of the North Dakota Guard, replacing the local militia. But he was perhaps best known for his collection of artifacts, and most importantly for his long, close association with the Sioux tribal nations.

Welch was reportedly the first white man adopted into the Yanktonai Sioux Nation. He was adopted by Chief John Grass in a full tribal ceremony in June of 1913. Unheard of at the time, the adoption was extensively reported. He had long studied the ways of the Sioux, and worked to show his faith in them and to demonstrate his friendship. Welch, also called Charging Bear, was also fluent in the Sioux dialect.

On this date in 1925, it was reported that Welch had presented a cedar gavel to the National American Legion in Nebraska. The gavel was made from the old snubbing post located in front of the house on Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in the badlands.

Welch, the “white chief of the Sioux,” was decked out in the full costume of a chief. As he gave this Roosevelt Memorial gavel, he declared these words of inspiration:

“Even as the spirit of Roosevelt, always fighting for Americanism and justice, has helped North Dakota from the slough of economic and political depression to its present height of prosperity, the same spirit will carry the American Legion upward in its struggle for the principles for which it stands.”

This historical gift was the perfect offering from a man like Welch. Just like the man who presented it, the gavel represented a melding of the past and the present, the old and new cultures of North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Carson Press, October 15, 1925, p11