The Cherokee State Hospital for the Insane in Cherokee, Iowa was not founded by, or for, Indians. However, like the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, it was a deeply desired institution. The towns of Sheldon, LeMars, Fort Dodge, and Storm Lake in northwestern Iowa lobbied hard to bring the asylum to their area, since it meant jobs and economic growth. Unlike Canton Asylum, this hospital is still in operation,
In 1911, Iowa began to pass sterilization laws to prevent the procreation of undesirable or defective people. Morons, idiots, drunks, epileptics, and moral perverts were all fair targets, and if they were institutionalized, the managing staff made the determination for sterilization. Later, staff recommended candidates for sterilization to the state eugenics board, who made the final decision. By the early 1960s, nearly 2,000 people in Iowa (the majority female) were sterilized under a variety of these laws.
Dr. Walter Freeman, who had perfected the lobotomy technique, enjoyed the fame he received for his work. He was performing a public lobotomy on a patient at the Cherokee State Hospital and stepped back so a reporter could take his picture. As he did this, Freeman’s ice pick-like instrument went too deep into the patient’s brain and killed him.
In 1924, Dr. Freeman directed St. Elizabeths’ labs. He pioneered his transorbital lobotomy procedure there, but the hospital’s superintended would not allow him to use it any wide scale way.