INSANITY, INDIANS, AND AMERICAN HISTORY
Few Remember the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians
If there were ever a building that ought to be haunted, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians in South Dakota would be that place. Native Americans were committed to its care, involuntarily, with little recourse for protest. Many remained for life, longing for their families and a familiar culture. Few personal records remain to reveal the hearts and lives of Canton Asylum’s inmates, and this site of despair and injustice was demolished many years ago. Ironically, only a cemetery remains to mark the spot where so many lives were ruined.
Few people have heard of Canton Asylum (or Hiawatha, as it was often called locally) in South Dakota, or have cared much about its history. I hope to change that through a book I have written about the asylum. This blog will contain information that is not in the book, though some of the bare facts may appear in both.
Throughout the blog, I will use the language of the times, taken from letters, official documents, newspapers, and other sources. I believe that this will better place you in the era.
I appreciate your taking this journey with me, as we look at the time, the culture, and the people involved in allowing a facility to operate solely for the incarceration and care of insane Indians. – Carla Joinson
(Photo of Asylum Courtesy of the South Dakota State Archives)