"The Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians" is the focus of the next College of Allied Health Professions Diversity and Inclusion Seminar Series, aimed at bringing to light the history of marginalized ethnic groups in the United States.
The seminar will be presented via Zoom at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Register here.
Joseph Marshall III will discuss the creation of a mental institution in 1899 by a congressman and a senator from the state of South Dakota, who requested funding from the U.S. Congress to build the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, which later was renamed the Hiawatha Asylum.
Marshall is an acclaimed author, teacher, actor and one of the founders of Sinte Gleska University on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Marshall said the presentation explores the attitudes and fears espoused by those who deemed Native Americans a threat to the white populace because of the intermarriages that were taking place at the time. Once funding was granted, a large four-story building was constructed and opened in 1900. However, no insane Indians could be found. Therefore, native people who were "troublemakers" of any sort were sent there.
"Over 30 years, nearly 400 natives from several states were admitted as 'patients,'" Marshall said. "The institution became known as the Hiawatha Asylum and had a history of neglect, physical and sexual abuse of its residents, and even sexual sterilization. It was essentially a 'make-work' project for white residents of the area, for which the native patients suffered abuse and mistreatment -- to put it mildly."