Roger Welsch, famous humorist, storyteller, and prominent Native activist, passed away on September 30, 2022 at the age of 85.
He began his career as a German teacher at Nebraska Wesleyan University before working at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1973, teaching English and folklore for fifteen years.
Welsch’s work as a folklorist allowed him to develop strong relationships with the Native tribes in Nebraska and influenced his activism. When the Nebraska State Historical Society refused to return human remains of Natives, mostly Pawnee, his efforts led to the reform of the historical society, repatriation of the remains, and his adoption by the three Nebraska-rooted tribes.
“At one point, he and Linda, his wife, decided to give the land back to the Pawnee, who needed a place to bury the repatriated remains. Several thousand remains have been buried here. He was one of the first to give his land back to its rightful owners. And he inspired other people in Nebraska to do that,” his son, Chris said.
Roger Welsch also had a CBS program, “Postcards from Nebraska”, with Charles Kuralt that ran for thirteen years. This segment showed off Welsch’s love for Nebraska, its culture and people.
“He really contributed to our state,” said Nebraska Public Media’s Ron Hull, who worked with Welsch on a TV series. “He really spread the word about us through TV. He had that run on CBS with ‘Postcards.’ They really were wonderful. He was a true Nebraskan, and the fact that he contributed that land to the Pawnee. That’s putting your money where your mouth is.”
Welsch was also a prolific writer on Nebraska and folklore. Some of his works include A Life with Dogs (Bison Books, 2021), Why I’m an Only Child and Other Slightly Naughty Plains Folktales (Bison Books, 2016), Embracing Fry Bread (Bison Books, 2012), and A Treasury of Nebraska Pioneer Folklore (Bison Books, 1984) among many others.