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RG5662.AM:  James McLaughlin, 1842-1923

Papers:  1909-1924

Dakota Territory:  Indian Agent, Indian Inspector

Size:  2 reels of microfilm


James McLaughlin, the son of Felix and Mary (Prince) McLaughlin, was born in Avonmore, Ontario, Canada, on February 12, 1842. He emigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1863 and the following year moved to Owatonna. He married Marie Louis Brisson in 1864. James McLaughlin entered the Indian Service on July 1, 1871, when he became an employee at the Devils Lake Agency, Dakota Territory. He was appointed Agent at Devils Lake five years later by President Grant. In 1881 he was appointed Agent at Standing Rock Agency, where, the following year he went on the last buffalo hunt of the Sioux. In October 1888 he took a delegation of Sioux to Washington, D.C.

McLaughlin was appointed U.S. Indian Inspector on January 19, 1895. On July 1, 1909, he served as Inspector of the Department of the Interior. The following year his book, My Friend the Indian (in NSHS Library, 970.1 M22) was published. He was appointed Special Inspector of the Interior Department on February 16, 1913. One of his assignments, in 1920, was investigating the Wounded Knee conflict of 1890. In 1921, McLaughlin completed fifty years of employment in the Indian Service. He died on July 23, 1923 in McLaughlin, South Dakota, a town that had been named for him in 1907.


The Nebraska State Historical Society purchased two reels (reels 11 and 17) of the James McLaughlin papers comprising this collection from the Assumption Abbey Archives of Richardton, North Dakota. These were purchased for the Research and Publications Division in preparation of Voices of the American West: The Settler and Soldier Interviews of Eli S. Ricker, 1903-1919, edited by Richard E. Jensen (in NSHS Library 978 J54i Vol. 2).

Although the impetus for purchasing these two reels was the Ricker publication, the reels contain additional information that will be useful for researchers interested in the work of Indian agents, the U.S. Indian Service, and historical material on the tribes and agencies represented. Reel 11 consists of Letters, July 1919-July 5, 1920. Although most of the reel is comprised of individual applications for patents in fee by the Sioux of Standing Rock Agency, sizeable sections deal with the competence of Indians on the Winnebago Agency (Nebraska), the Cheyenne River Agency (South Dakota) and the Kickapoo Agency (Kansas). The letters also document McLaughlin’s investigation of the 1890 Wounded Knee episode in 1920 conducted on the Standing Rock and Cheyenne Agencies.

Reel 17 contains McLaughlin’s notebooks numbered 22-44 covering the years 1909-1924. These notebooks document expenses, field notes, first drafts of letters, addresses, and bits of information about the Indians that McLaughlin interviews. Notebook 40 pertains to McLaughlin’s Wounded Knee investigation.

Because the James McLaughlin papers are owned by the Assumption Abbey Archives, researchers desiring to publish from them (or purchase copies of the microfilm) should contact that archives for permission.


Reel 11

Letters, July 1919 – July 5, 1920

Reel 17

Notebooks, #22-44, 1909-1924

  1. 1910-1918

  2. 1909-1910

  3. 1911   Minnesota and Wisconsin

  4. 1912-1922   Mrs. McLaughlin’s notes

  5. 1913

  6. 1914, 1917

  7. 1915

  8. 1915

  9. 1916   Fort Berthold Agency

  10. 1917   Oneida Reservation

  11. 1918   Ponca Agency, Oklahoma

  12. 1918   Shoshone Reservation

  13. 1918   Osage (also Alabama Indians in Polk County, Texas)

  14. (a)1919, June 18-25   Winnebago, Nebraska

    (b)1919, June 26   Winnebago, Nebraska

  15. 1919, July   Standing Rock

  16. 1919, July-Aug.   Standing Rock

  17. 1919, Sept.-Oct.   Cheyenne River Agency

  18. 1919-1923

  19. 1920   Wounded Knee affair

  20. 1920   Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, and Kickapoo

  21. 1921   Pine Ridge Agency

  22. 1922-1923

  23. 1923-1924   McLaughlin’s estate



Dakota Indians — Wars, 1890-1891

Indian agents

Indian reservations

Indians, Treatment of

Indians of North America — Government relations

Indians of North America — West (U.S.) — Agents

McLaughlin, James, 1842-1923

Pine Ridge Indian Agency (S.D.)

Winnebago Indians

Wounded Knee Massacre, S.D., 1890


AIF   08-07-2009

09-22-2009   Revised TMM/tmm