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Susan Burch Lecture for Health and Society Working Group

September 6, 2016

2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Title: “Committed: Native Sovereignty, Institutionalization, Family, and Remembering”

This presentation centers on life stories from South Dakota's Canton Asylum, a federal psychiatric institution for American Indians. Between 1902 and 1933, the Asylum detained nearly 400 Indigenous men, women, and children from more than 50 Native nations. Focusing especially on the experiences of Menominee people collectively stolen from their homes in Wisconsin to Canton in November 1917, this talk exposes contested understandings of kin, diagnoses and forced removals, and remembering. Complex relationships between the three concepts also emerge: medical diagnoses and institutionalization were used to undermine Indigenous kinship and they complicate remembering. At the same time, remembering—recalling and repopulating the past—offers a way to challenge pathological diagnoses and affirm Native self-determination. This project unsettles the projected objectivity and commonsense logic of US medical diagnoses and institutionalization. It brings to light the violent entanglement of settler colonialism, racism, ableism, and patriarchy and their impact on Native self-determination, families, and remembering. Collaborating with relatives of those incarcerated at Canton, and drawing on decolonizing and disability studies methodologies, this work seeks to generate meaningful historical knowledge and new theoretical strategies and perspectives.


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