Abstract

This work examines removals, institutions, and community lives in U.S. history. It centers on "dislocated histories" from South Dakota’s Canton Asylum, the only federal psychiatric hospital for American Indians. Between its opening in 1902 and forced closure in 1934, the Asylum ultimately held four hundred men, women, and children from seventeen states and nearly fifty tribal nations. Individual histories of those confined at Canton and their families are inextricably tied to broader stories of forced removals; the rise of penal, medical, and disability institutions; eugenics; and contests over citizenship and American identity in U.S. history. This work explores some of the methodological issues around how to present Canton Asylum, Native American, split family, and dislocated community histories. Central to the process is relocating this history, placing Canton inmates at the center. Considering the dislocated history of Elizabeth Alexis Fairbault and her family draws attention to the highly relational dimensions of these factors; this approach intentionally challenges racist, sexist, and ableist systems of power that shaped the options and experiences of people incarcerated at Canton. It complicates the dominant, institutional interpretation and--to a limited degree--restores those removed from their communities to our historical frameworks.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.