Blog Posts - Bia Bureau Of Indian Affairs



The Price of Convenience

The vast majority of employees at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians lived on the premises as part of their compensation package. Though it could certainly be a bit restrictive to seldom leave the asylum grounds, they benefited by not having to tru...

A Favorite Project

Dr. Harry Hummer, superintendent of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, almost continually made and implemented plans to expand the facility. One building that he especially wanted and never received was a separate cottage for epileptics. Though it...

A Look Inside Hummer’s Home

Dr. Harry Hummer, superintendent of the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, made sure that he and his family got the choicest rooms in the asylum for their living quarters. His selfishness in the matter of living arrangements contributed to a divisive...

A Home of One’s Own

Many people in today’s workforce complain that it’s difficult to get away from the job–they’re available to their employers through phones and email almost constantly. Superintendents and other staff at insane asylums were als...

An Impossible Job?

Though the rules and duties of each asylum position had been formulated by 1903, they were not initially given to employees at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. Its first superintendent, Oscar Gifford, told an inspector that he hadn’t done...

No Consequences

Anyone following the inspections and various reports made on the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians might well feel amazed that Dr. Harry Hummer managed to continue as superintendent there. Several inspectors suggested outright that he be dismissed fro...

How About Asking?

Native peoples and European immigrants have had varied relationships. At one time, native tribes were treated as independent nations and trading partners, then later as enemies who needed to be destroyed, and even later, as childish wards who needed...

Fourth of July

The Indian Bureau was never culturally sensitive, especially when it came to Native American celebrations. It actively discouraged or forbade ceremonial dances, feasts, and other gatherings, fearing that they might unite tribes or keep them from assi...

Fry Bread

Fry bread (or frybread) is associated with Native American cuisine, but it is not a traditional food for native peoples. The food originated during hard times, and is a symbol of both pride and pain. In 1863 Gen. James Henry Carleton, commander of Ne...

Asylum Comparisons

St. Elizabeths and the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians were investigated a number of times during the early twentieth century. Both were federal insane asylums, but they were also quite different. St. Elizabeths was very much a medical facility, whi...

A Cost Analysis

Interested parties (mainly in South Dakota) wanted an asylum established exclusively for insane Indians, and tried to make a case for it. They met with a complete lack of support from the superintendent (William W. Godding) of the only other federal...

Canton Asylum Given Much Thought

Though the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians had many problems throughout its operation, the facility itself had been the subject of much consideration before its construction. When Senator Richard F. Pettigrew, Chairman of of the Committee on Indian...

Exercising Care

Inspections are simply written and verbal snapshots of an investigator’s particular visit. That visit may have occurred during an exceptionally good or bad time, or during a relatively normal period. Inspections at the Canton Asylum for Insane...

Combating Smallpox

Smallpox decimated Native Americans (see last post) after Europeans arrived and spread this virulent disease on a population with no immunity to it. However, the disease was not simply accepted and endured. Though native peoples did not immediately c...

Other Ills at the Asylum

Though there is no mention of any smallpox epidemics at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, the threat of this terrible disease was very real. Smallpox had devastated Native American communities once Europeans arrived, since native peoples had no i...

A Full Time Job

Indian inspectors had their hands full trying to ensure that laws and policies were properly carried out within all the reservations (see last post). But, it was the Indian agent who actually made things tick at the local level. Almost all reservatio...

Too Much to Inspect

The federal government has long provided for inspection in most areas over which it has control, and Indian reservations were no exception. In 1904, the legislature published Laws and Treaties, Vol. I, which outlined laws, policies, and procedures pe...

Grimes Was Not Impressed

When Dr. John Maurice Grimes inspected mental institutions in the U.S. (see last two posts), he discovered that the federal asylum in Washington, DC, (St. Elizabeths) was overcrowded. It had a rated capacity of 3,700 patients and an actual patient po...

Grimes Was Not Impressed

When Dr. John Maurice Grimes inspected mental institutions in the U.S. (see last two posts), he discovered that the federal asylum in Washington, DC, (St. Elizabeths) was overcrowded. It had a rated capacity of 3,700 patients and an actual patient po...

Where Do You Go?

Nearly every patient in an insane asylum wanted out. Asylum superintendents often put up roadblocks to this when they didn’t feel a patient was well enough to go home; there are many accounts of clashes between the asylum’s medical staff...


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