Gallery Exhibit Features Dark History of the Hiawatha Asylum

Detail from a work by the artists of the Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux, part of a new exhibition exploring the history of the Hiawatha Indian Insane Asylum that operated in Canton, SD.

Event Details


Date: January 25 - April 9, 2016

Times: A gallery reception will be held from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, with an artist talk at 5:15 p.m.

Location: Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center for Western Studies

The Center for Western Studies is proud to present "I Have The Honor To Report: Hiawatha Asylum Exhibit that opened Monday, Jan. 25, and runs through Saturday, April 9. A reception will be held from 5-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, with a gallery talk at 5:15 p.m. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center's Fantle Building at 2121 South Summit Avenue.

Among the artists currently collaborating on the exhibition for Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux are multi-mixed media artist Jerry Fogg, Ihanktonwan Nakota Oyate; printmaker and art educator Chad Nelson; mixed media and assemblage artist Chris Francis; and artist Angela Behrends.

This unique exhibition, from the artist collective known as Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux, explores the dark history of the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, a facility that operated in Canton, South Dakota, from 1902-1934. More than thirty years after it opened, the asylum was closed following numerous complaints and investigations that cited poor living conditions and inhumane treatment of the residents. During its operation, at least 391 Native Americans were sent to the asylum. Of those, records indicate at least 121 died while under the care of the institution. Due to poor record keeping, the actual number of deaths is unknown.

The mission of Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux is to show how artists of different media can create pieces that will inform viewers. The artists chose to focus this exhibit on the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians following the expiration of a 70-year government-imposed gag order. Now is the time, they feel, for the story to be told, investigated, and most of all remembered.

I Have The Honor To Report, the title of the exhibition, is a reference to official asylum documents which included the phrase under the official letterhead of the Department of the Interior United States Indian Services. Jerry Fogg notes how this statement, “makes it official that another human being is sentenced to what may be their last stand.”


For more information, please contact Kristi Thomas, education assistant, Center for Western Studies, 605.274.4007.