Boarding School and Land Allotment Eras 1879-1933


Establishment of the Institution for Insane Indians

Congress passes a bill creating the only “Institution for Insane Indians” in the United States. The Canton Insane Asylum (also called Hiawatha Insane Asylum) opens for the reception of patients in January 1903. Many are confined because they are opposed to or resist government regulations. There is documentation that some women were declared insane in order to gain access to the women’s Oklahoma oil and mineral rights (e.g., the case of Josephine Rider). A 1927 investigation conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs determines that a large number of patients show no signs of mental illness. While the asylum is open, more than 350 patients are detained there without consent, in horrific conditions. The first two years it is open, there were no doctors, nurses, or trained personnel for mental health concerns, and patients as young as 11 years old are chained to beds. Tourists come in summer to view the “insane Indians.” At least 121 patients die. The asylum is closed in 1934 (Walker, 2015 & Stawicki, 1997).

Traumatic Event

Settler Colonial Policy