Blog Posts - Indian Tribes



Preserving Food

Patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, though forced to eat a relatively poor diet of increasingly refined foods provided by the government, benefited from the fresh food and meat raised on the asylum grounds. However, there never seemed t...

Food Woes

Choices concerning Bran Flakes and Shredded Krumbles (see last post) weren’t the only food problems patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians suffered. They, like most Native Americans, had already lost a basic underpinning of life–...

And More Cereal

Cold, flaked cereals were not a part of traditional Native American diets, but many Native Americans on reservations doubtlessly ate them. So did the patients at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. Both Sylvester Graham and John Harvey Kellogg (see...

Native American Ghosts

Native Americans believed in ghosts–spirits who were not at peace. This could happen because someone who died had not been at peace, personally. Unrest could also occur because a person was not buried properly or respectfully. Disturbing or des...

Native American Harvests

Many people believe buffalo was the primary foodstuff for Native Americans, but that is only a stereotype. Most Native Americans had a bountiful, healthy diet during good years, and preserved food for winter use and bad times. Some tribes grew their...

Too Much Change

The federal government had sought to integrate, or assimilate, Native Americans into the larger white culture for some time before the Canton Asylum opened. Policy-makers did not try to achieve this goal by meeting Native Americans halfway or by grad...

Time Matters

The world was truly a different place when the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians first opened on the last day of 1902. Even something as simple as clothing was remarkably different from what we typically see and wear today. Men dressed far more formal...

And One Step Backward

By the early 1920s, some of the indifference to Native Americans’ cultural values had lessened (see last post). However, even if  a government official occasionally saw positive traits in native peoples or respected their need for cultural who...

Tiny Steps

Most Europeans settlers believed that their respective cultures were superior to Native American ones, and set about imposing their own ideas upon native peoples as soon as they were able to do so. This thinking led to many tragedies, including reser...

Reports, Reports

With perhaps a very rare exception, all insane asylums were inspected on a reasonably regular basis, and inspectors visited the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians a number of times. Visits were usually routine, though the asylum received a number of sp...

A Divided View

White society saw Native American dancing in two ways: immoral and/or depraved, or as perfectly acceptable cultural expression (see last two posts). Native Americans often pointed out that their dances were not as immoral as white dancing, which incl...

Why All the Concern?

The controversy over Native American dancing did not arise all at once, of course (see last post). European settlers were often surprised at the energy and freedom inherent in many ceremonial dances, but unfortunately attributed much of it to the ...

Fear of Dancing

Though the federal government wanted to suppress anything that kept Native Americans from assimilating into white culture, dancing seemed to be of special concern. Dances were central to many traditional rituals and ceremonies, and therefore, suspect...

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...

Another Canton Patient History

Some of the only Canton Asylum for Insane Indians’ patient histories available come from assessments St. Elizabeths staff made when patients were transferred in 1933 (see last two posts). Here is one more sample patient history: Meda Ensign (Tr...

Canton’s Patients

Few patient records from the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians are intact or complete. This is not unusual–many asylums destroyed their records over the years, since early administrators did not see any potentially historical value in them. The...

Patient Histories

An important innovation in the treatment of the insane was to obtain a history of patients’ past life and behavior. This allowed doctors to see how much the patient was deviating from previous behavior that was “normal” for that per...

Make it Pretty

Occupational therapy was an important part of patient care in nearly all asylums. Patients were encouraged to do skilled work that got their minds off their problems/issues and produced a tangible object in which they could take pride. Genteel ladies...

Precedent for Asylum Care

In its treaties, the federal government routinely promised many material goods to Native Americans, as well as less tangible goods such as health care and education. Much of the government’s early health care consisted more of record-keeping th...

Appropriate Care

Though some patients may have considered their stay at an asylum as a period of respite from the cares of the world, most patients just wanted out. Some understood that they needed help and could agree with the commitment decision, but even these pat...


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