“People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don’t know is what what they do does.”
― Michel Foucault,
[…. Given the ease with which a Native person could be judged insane, it is no surprise that demand for places to confine people began to exceed the number of beds available for these unfortunate souls. Asylums outside Indian country started taking in this overflow, but the associated medical superintendents opposed housing Indians with whites, due to their perceived inferiority, the agitation of racist white inmates and the potential for interracial sex, which violated accepted eugenics principles.
In 1901, the Bureau of Indian Affairs began construction of the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians in Canton, South Dakota. By January, 1904, shortly after Hiawatha’s completion, theCherokee Advocatereported that there were just 18 inmates in the Cherokee Asylum and the building was “sadly in need of repair, especially the windows, as they are nearly pane-less.” With the imminent statehood of the Territory and the loss of tribal jurisdiction, some Cherokee inmates were eventually placed under Oklahoma state management.
Others were transferred to the new BIA government asylum in South Dakota. In 1918, the U.S. Census Bureau endorsed theStatistical Manual for the Use of Institutions for the Insane, published by the National Committee for Mental Hygiene, as a “national system of statistics of mental diseases” to help track the threat of undesirable racial strains and their mental problems. This early DSM version served eugenics, a powerful social movement aimed at eliminating inferior races through sterilization and reduced birth rates. From 1921 to 1924, a eugenics display supplied by the American Museum of Natural History stood in the Capitol Rotunda, and eugenics philosophies were instituted in social and health services across Indian country….]