Tag Archives: Laguna

One Way to Canton

Downtown Albuquerque, circa 1912, courtesy National Archives

Downtown Albuquerque, circa 1912, courtesy National Archives

Admitting a patient to the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians was usually an easy–and fast–procedure. Since patients were not generally committed through legal process, a series of letters was usually sufficient to justify cause, ask for admittance, and give permission for it. Patients’ rights were trampled of course, but records show that many of those who urged a patient’s commitment felt that they were doing the right thing.

Early Class of Young Boys, Albuquerque Indian School, circa 1895, courtesy National Archives

Early Class of Young Boys, Albuquerque Indian School, circa 1895, courtesy National Archives

Lillian Burns, a young Laguna woman at Albuquerque Pueblo Day School, evidently became violent and uncontrollable on June 19, 1912. She was taken to the Laguna sanatorium, but the staff could not supervise her constantly and had to call in various teachers, police, and farmers for help. J. B. Burke, Clerk in Charge at the Pueblo Day School, asked a local doctor for help; Dr. Dillon contacted the Indian Office, and after no response, suggested taking Burns to the State Insane Asylum in Las Vegas.

New Mexico Insane Asylum in Las Vegas, 1904

New Mexico Insane Asylum in Las Vegas, 1904

In his telegram concerning this commitment, Dr. Dillon asked: “Can we bring her on number ten to-morrow. Impossible and inhumane to keep her here longer, otherwise must turnĀ  her over to sheriff.”

Burke wired Dr. Dillon (and evidently the Indian Office as well) to arrange for Burns to be sent to the Canton Asylum, instead. The Indian Office responded with a telegram of its own authorizing $100 to cover transportation and expenses, and Burke acted on that as permission to send Burns to the Canton Asylum.

Lillian Burns, who was taken ill on June 19, was admitted to the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians on June 25, less than a week later. Fortunately, she was a patient who, unlike most, did not spend a lot of time there. She was released in April, 1913.

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Horror Story

Native American Storytelling

Native Americans did not celebrate Halloween rituals as Europeans did, but they passed on stories about spirits and ghosts. The following story is adapted from the Zuni tale, “Rolling Skull” on angelfire.com, Native American Legends, Myths, and Lore:

One day, a young man who was a great hunter found himself far away from home when it became dark and rainy. He saw smoke coming from a house and thought that he could find shelter there. An old woman let him in and offered him food. Later, she offered him her beautiful daughter for the night. The man agreed and went to sleep with the daughter. When he woke up, the house was only an old ruin and his blanket was just a rag. The woman he had slept with was a skeleton, and her bones rattled as he jumped up in fear and ran away. As he ran, he heard the old woman’s skull rolling behind him.

The man sought help from the Hawiku, who were dancing the yaya dance. But, as he joined the dance, the old woman’s skull rolled into the group of dancers and cried out, “Where is my daughter’s husband?” The hunter ran to the Navajo dancing a war dance, but the same thing happened. He ran to the Laguna dancing the harvest dance, and the same thing happened. The old woman’s skull rolled behind him everywhere he sought help or protection. The bluebird and the sunflower couldn’t help him, but finally the hunter reached Porcupine.

Porcupine gave the man pinon gum and told him to cover the door thickly with it. When the old woman’s skull cried out for her daughter’s husband, Porcupine told her to come and get him. The skull rolled in and stuck fast to the pinon gum. Porcupine set fire to the pinon gum and skull and burned it up. The man then stayed with Porcupine and married Porcupine Girl.

Though the story is simple, the hunter’s panic is palpable in the longer version, and the eeriness of the old woman’s skull more pronounced.

Zuni Pueblo-Pack Train, courtesy Smithsonian Institution and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center

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