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Category: Waypoint  Listing Date: 2011-07-10

Hiawatha Asylum

Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians - signHiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians


Receiving Congressional appropriations in 1899, the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians was the second federal mental hospital and the first dedicated to American Indians. The first patient arrived in 1902, and through 1934, more than 370 patients - ages two to eighty, from fifty tribes nationwide - lived here. Patients did domestic and agricultural work onsite, were occasionally shown to paying visitors, and underwent treatment with methods later deemed outdated and dehumanizing. From 1929 to 1933, federal inspectors found intolerable conditions, inadequate staffing, several sane patients kept by force, and numerous other abuses. In 1933, John Collier, the newly-appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs, ordered the asylum closed. G. J. Moen, with the Canton Chamber of Commerce, filed an injunction to keep the asylum open, but it was overturned in federal court. Many patients were discharged and those who still needed care were sent to St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Washington D.C. The major buildings used by the asylum have since been demolished. The Hiawatha Asylum cemetery, where at least 121 patients were buried in unmarked graves, is located between the 4th and 5th fairways of the Hiawatha Golf Club. In 1998, the cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

This waypoint sign was mentioned during a conversation in the law enforcement dispatch area in Canton, SD. The stop in Canton was part of a project to locate CCC Camps in eastern South Dakota.

After locating the sign, and then doing some research, additional information was discovered.

The sign states that in 1998, the cemetery was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. We did not find it on the NRHP website but will discuss it with our friends at NPS.

Posted with keywords: hiawatha, asylum, insane, indians, history, tragic, south dakota, waypoint, canton,