Remembering Native Kinship in and beyond Institutions

By Susan Burch

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 18 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6161-2
    Published: April 2021
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6162-9
    Published: April 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-6336-4
    Published: February 2021

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Awards & distinctions

2021 Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, National Women's Studies Association

Between 1902 and 1934, the United States confined hundreds of adults and children from dozens of Native nations at the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, a federal psychiatric hospital in South Dakota. But detention at the Indian Asylum, as families experienced it, was not the beginning or end of the story. For them, Canton Asylum was one of many places of imposed removal and confinement, including reservations, boarding schools, orphanages, and prison-hospitals. Despite the long reach of institutionalization for those forcibly held at the Asylum, the tenacity of relationships extended within and beyond institutional walls.

In this accessible and innovative work, Susan Burch tells the story of the Indigenous people—families, communities, and nations, across generations to the present day—who have experienced the impact of this history. Drawing on oral history interviews, correspondence, material objects, and archival sources, Burch reframes the histories of institutionalized people and the places that held them. Committed expands the boundaries of Native American history, disability studies, and U.S. social and cultural history generally.

About the Author

Susan Burch is professor of American studies at Middlebury College.
For more information about Susan Burch, visit the Author Page.


"Committed is story and history. A much-needed public, intergenerational history unveils yet another mode of removal, incarceration, and violence against Indigenous women and families and the other side of it through the stories of descendants. A necessary read to understand the historic breadth and forms of Indian Removal."—Jacki T. Rand, University of Iowa

“A must-read for anyone interested in the history of asylums and the ways those institutions have torn the fabric of people’s lives, leaving legacies of trauma in their wake. The book powerfully chronicles the resistance of the people incarcerated at Canton Asylum and the kin networks that led to their survivance and the survival of their memory.”—Anne E. Parsons, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

“A new model for engaged history, Committed sears through the story of Native people stolen from their communities and trammeled by racism within a federally run psychiatric facility.”—Katherine Ott, National Museum of American History