In 1899 the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians came into being – at least on paper.
Its “intent” was to be a hospital dedicated solely to the ‘mental illness problem’ within the Native American Community at that point in history.
In actuality, this was not the first mental hospital of its kind. In 1873 the Cherokee Council created a home for the deaf, blind and insane that was exclusively for Cherokee use.
The difference between the Cherokee’s hospital and Hiawatha was that Hiawatha’s actual intent was to be little more than a warehouse for ‘problem’ Indians.
The brainchild of an Indian agent and Republican Senator R.F. Pettigrew, Hiawatha was considered to be yet another medium for social change for Indian communities.