Skip Navigation Bar
 
If you knew the conditions... Health Care to Native Americans banner

Reservation and Hospital Health Care

Under the Office of Indian Affairs (c.1890-1925)

Health services administered by the Office of Indian Affairs were most often poorly equipped to combat the serious cases of tuberculosis, trachoma, smallpox, and other contagious and infectious diseases on Indian reservations during the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries. The federal government's program of assimilation of Native Americans into white culture dominated reservation health care during this period.

Native American traditions with regard to home, child-rearing, and treatment of illness were disregarded in favor of white ways. For this reason, health care was considered most effective when administered off the reservation. This meant removal of patients from their communities, as in the case of Alaskan Native patients of the Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon.

World War I briefly refocused United States government resolve overseas, where a number of Native Americans served the U.S. in armed combat. Some were wounded and treated at U.S. Army base hospitals in France, like the two men shown here.


Exhibit Case 4


Standing in a yard from left to right is Dr. H. W. Coe, a Native Alaskan woman and a man government inspector. The Insane of Alaska: For Sixteen Years Administered Under the Department of the Interior at Morningside Hospital, Portland, Oregon. Page 10 of the 1920 catalog of the facility.

(From left to right) Dr. H. W. Coe, Native Alaskan, Government Inspector
from The Insane of Alaska: For Sixteen Years Administered Under the Department of the Interior at Morningside Hospital, Portland, Oregon. Page 10 from the 1920 catalog of the facility.

A wounded Choctaw soldier in the U.S. service lies in a bed while an army doctor and Red Cross nurse attend to his wounds. World War I, U.S. National Red Cross Hospital No. 5, Auteuil, France, circa 1917-1918. Image A011591 from Images from the History of Medicine (IHM).

A wounded American soldier, a Choctaw Indian from Oklahoma in the U.S. American National Red Cross Hospital No. 5, Auteuil, France, c. 1917-1918.

A Choctaw Indian patient of World War I stands outside the U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, in Paris, France, circa 1917-18. Image A011566 from Images from the History of Medicine (IHM).

A Choctaw Indian patient of World War I stands outside the U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, in Paris, France, c. 1917-18.


A Cherokee Indian patient sits cross legged and armed on the ground. He is wearing a robe with a cross on the left breast with a bandage on his injured left hand. World War I. U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, Paris, France, c.1917-18. Image A05587 from Images from the History of Medicine (IHM).

Cherokee patient, World War I. U.S. Base Hospital No. 41, Paris, France, c. 1917-18.

A Public Health Service physician sitting in his car which is stuck in the mud. Image A020775 from Images from the History of Medicine (IHM).

Public Health Service physician with his car stuck in the mud,
c. 1910-1920

Front view of two Native American boys flanking an older Native American man that are infected with trachoma. From Contagious and Infectious Disease among the Indians, U.S. Senate Document, 1913.

Native American victims of Trachoma from Contagious and Infectious Diseases Among the Indians, U.S. Senate Document, 1913


Burning of a Navajo Hogan that had been occupied by a victim of smallpox, near Indian Wells, Leupp Indian Reservation, Arizona,
circa 1890-1910. Courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration.

Burning of a Navajo Hogan that had been occupied by a victim of smallpox, near Indian Wells, Leupp Indian Reservation, Arizona, c. 1890-1910
Courtesy the National Archives and Records Administration

Title page of Indian Babies: How to Keep Them Well, Office of Indian Affairs, 1916. In the upper right corner is a stamp stating Library Surgeon General's Office. In the bottom center of the page is a stamp stating Army Medical Library, Washington, D.C. In the center of the page, is an image of a Native American baby sitting on the ground wearing a cloth diaper. Page 15 of Indian Babies: How to Keep Them Well, Office of Indian Affairs, 1916. In the center of the page is a Native American baby in a Navajo cradle.

Indian Babies: How to Keep Them Well
Office of Indian Affairs, 1916.
The Pamphlet illustrates assimilationist philosophy of government care at that time.