Indian Rights AssociationAlternative names
Zitkala is the Indian name for Gertrude Bonnin, 1876-1938.
From the guide to the National Council of American Indians records, 1926-1938, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)
The Indian Rights Association was organized in Philadelphia in 1882. The early leaders of the association, including Herbert Welsh, sought to protect the interests and general welfare of the Indians. Through its monitoring and lobbying activities with executive agencies and Congress, the association, in its first forty years, gained the reputation of being the major non-governmental group to which Indians could turn for protection and support.
From the description of Indian Rights Association papers, 1864-1973 (inclusive), 1882-1968 (bulk), [microform]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122386792
The Indian Rights Association was founded in Philadelphia in 1882 to "bring about the complete civilization of the Indians and their admission to citizenship." In 1884 the Indian Rights Association opened a Washington office to act as a legislative lobby and liason with the Board of Indian Commissioners and the Board of Indian Affairs. The Philadelphia and Washington offices maintained almost daily correspondence until the latter office closed in 1939. Much of this correspondence is included in the collection. The Indian Rights Association also maintained close contacts with Indian agents and with Indians themselves through correspondence and almost annual field trips to reservations and settlements. The collection includes many reports and letters reflecting these contacts.
The responsibility for the Indian Rights Association's programs fell, largely, to five men, all of whom had lengthy careers with the Indian Rights Association: Herbert Welsh, Matthew Sniffen, and Lawrence E. Lindley, active in Philadelphia; and Charles C. Painter and Samuel M. Brosius, Washington agents.
From the description of Papers, 1830-1969 (inclusive), 1830, 1884-1967, 1969 (bulk). (Historical Society of Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 122579926
The Indian Rights Association was a humanitarian group dedicated to influencing federal U.S. Indian policy and protecting Indians of the U.S. The first meeting of the Association was held on December 15, 1882 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the home of Herbert Welsh, who served as its Executive Secretary. "Like his friend Henry Pancoast, Welsh was what one student of Philadelphia society has referred to as a Proper Philadelphian. He was born in 1851 as the eighth child of John and Mary Lowber Welsh. John Welsh was the son of a successful Philadelphia merchant and also prospered in business. Herbert Welsh declined to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after inheriting sufficient property from his father and maternal grandfather, this enabled him to live comfortably by the standards of the upper-middle class of Philadelphia and to pursue his avocations." (William T. Hagan, The Indian Rights Association: The Herbert Welsh years, 1882-1904, Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1985, page 3.)
After traveling to Dakota Territory to visit a Sioux reserve with Pancoast at the invitation of William Hobart Hare (Protestant Episcopal Church Bishop of Niobrara), Welsh returned home with a new sense of conscience from facing the harsh existence of an American Indian’s daily life. He and others who formed the IRA were determined to help improve the present and future of American Indians by fixing wrongs that they have experienced and by bringing American public support to the plight of the Indian cause.
"The early leaders of the Indian rights Association (IRA) had a twofold purpose: to protect the interests and general welfare for the Indians, and to initiate, support, or oppose government legislation and policies designed to `civilize’ the American Indian. By the term `civilize,’ the IRA in 1882 meant measures designed to educate, Christianize, make economically independent, and absorb the Indians as individuals into American society." (Indian Rights Association Papers: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition 1864-1973, 1975, page 1.) Herbert 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; his empty pride of separate nationality will have been destroyed, and in its place 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." (Indian Rights Association Papers: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition 1864-1973, 1975, page 1.)
Throughout its history, the IRA was consistently successful as a lobbying group. The proficiency and commitment of its staff brought power and force to achieving IRA objectives. Investigative field trips (such as Theodore Hetzel documented in his travel journals), the long tenure of service by IRA board members and staff, and the vitality of the IRA public relations program (including the newsletter Indian Truth, which Dr. Hetzel edited for many years), gave the Association an edge in influencing federal legislation pertaining to Indian affairs. Also, “with continuous contact between the IRA employees, Indians and the Indian service staff on the reservations, the ability to research and determine the facts of a specific case through first hand investigations made it possible for IRA to quietly bring pressure upon the Commissioner of Indian Affairs or the Secretary of the Interior to make changes.” (Indian Rights Association Papers: A Guide to the Microfilm Edition 1864-1973, 1975, page 3.) For the span of about forty years, the IRA was the organization that American Indians looked to for help and protection, and for non-American Indians it was a useful source of information. Later organizations and groups brought additional protection and help to the American Indian people, but the Indian Rights Association was the forerunner.
From the guide to the Indian Rights Association pamphlets, 1884-1985, 1884-1935, (Fort Lewis College. Center of Southwest Studies)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Lake Traverse Indian Reservation (N.D. and S.D.)|
|Standing Rock Indian Reservation (N.D. and S.D.)|
|Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation (Utah)|
|Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (S.D.)|
|Federal--Indian trust relationship|
|Indians of North America--Government relations|
|Indians of North America|
|Indians of North America--Land tenure|
|Land tenure--United States|
|Indians of North America--History|
|Tribal government--United States|