Blog Posts - Indian Tribes



And More Statistics

The government always liked to gather statistics (see last post), and Dr. Hummer was forced to complete many reports for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. A report from June 30, 1924 gives a good snapshot of the institution. There were 50 males and...

Suspect Diagnosis

Patients were committed to insane asylums with relative ease during the 1800s and into the 1900s. Though many undoubtedly needed help, others were simply a nuisance to their relatives for one reason or another. Though whites were improperly committed...

Dakota Territory

Though it wasn’t officially created until much later, Dakota Territory was carved from land inhabited by the Dakota Sioux and gained through the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Shortly after the purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804 establi...

Local History

Huge changes took place in the American West during the 1800s. The pre-Revolution colonies were supposed to abide by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which forbade them to move westward past a certain point (called the Proclamation Line) extending fro...

Dancing Controversy

Native American dancing caused controversy for several reasons (see last post). Missionaries saw paganism or sexual immorality in dancing, and also considered it a hindrance to their efforts to convert Indians to Christianity; the Indian Office felt...

Dancing and Morals

Missionaries trying to convert Native Americans to Christianity took particular exception to the traditional dances of native peoples. Some Christian denominations considered dancing immoral for anyone–whites included–but even denominatio...

Onward, Civilization

Besides encouraging native peoples to take up farming, white settlers believed that introducing Christianity would help “civilize” Indians (see last post). Federal policy encouraged missionaries to enter Indian territories to spread both...

Civilizing Indians

From the time of their own arrival, most white settlers to America considered Native Americans savages, or at best, uncivilized. Thomas Jefferson wrote about “civilizing” Indians within a peculiar context–that of helping Americans e...

Give-Away Day

The Indian Bureau’s policy of assimilation always supported ways of changing or eliminating Indian customs. They forced children to go to boarding schools to learn white ways, made Indians on reservations wear “citizen” (white-style...

Early Observations on the West

Though mountain men like Jedediah Smith (see last post) brought their prejudices and world-views with them, they also rejected much of civilized society’s mores and were comfortable interacting with whatever or whomever they found on their jour...

Jedediah Smith

Who were the men who pushed westward (see last two posts) to create both the foundation for a “frontier thesis” and the reality of American exploration and expansion? Among the earliest white explorers were mountain men like Jedediah Smit...

Frontier Philosophy

The ideas of westward expansion, coast-to-coast boundaries, and bountiful natural resources were entwined within the American consciousness (see last post). Historian Frederick Jackson Turner studied the impact that free land–a huge part of Ame...

American Philosophy

People today often find it hard to understand how Americans and their government could have treated native peoples so badly. Americans were not alone in thinking that their particular race/religion/country/form of government/, etc., was superior to t...

Guardianship

Whether it was land, game, water, or oil, white settlers desired Native American resources. Oil in Oklahoma (see last post) led to a successful land grab by whites, through lawful and unlawful means. In 1908, Congress passed an act that gave complete...

The Impact of Oil

Native Americans were almost continually exploited by the white settlers who relentlessly encroached upon their land. Oil had been discovered in Oklahoma before the turn of the twentieth century, but when deep drilling replaced shallow drilling, oil...

What’s Going On?

The world changed rapidly in the early 20th century, and the Roaring Twenties seemed to kick up the excitement. Movies had enhanced America’s entertainment options (see last post), but more serious achievements also promised to push boundaries.

South Dakota Is Still Brand New

South Dakota was still a relatively new state when Canton’s ex-mayor, Oscar S. Gifford, made good on his hope to have an Indian insane asylum built there. Dakota Territory had been created in 1861, and took its name from the Dakota Sioux word m...

Boys Not Exempt

Though women, and especially young girls, may have had fewer rights and protections under traditional white sensibilities, boys were also vulnerable to involuntary commitment. Navajo James Hathorn became a patient at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indi...

Exceptional Patients

Youth was no protection when it came to the possibility of commitment to an insane asylum. Dr. Harry Hummer admitted a six-year-old Caddo child named Amelia Moss to the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians in May or early June of 1922. His original corre...

Women’s Food Knowledge

Some Native American women held special positions in tribes (see last two posts), but almost any female possessed food-gathering and culinary skills of great value. When settlers first began pushing West, they found survival on the unforgiving Plains...


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