Sanitarium Incinerator

Killing Germs and Destroying Culture

In 1915 tuberculosis struck the Spokane Indians. Four died and fifty more were suspected of having the disease. In response to the outbreak, the Indian Service used the site of the former boarding school to create a sanitarium for local Indians suffering from tuberculosis.

Sanitariums were not just found on Indian reservations. Tuberculosis was a national epidemic and there were sanitariums across the United States. When infected patients arrived for treatment, staff would often burn their clothes and other belongings to decrease the risk of contaminating others.

At the new sanitarium, native children sometimes arrived in their finest traditional regalia. Though by the late 1800s many Indians wore western-style clothing for daily wear, traditional clothes were still made by hand, and treasured for special occasions. Photographs of Native gatherings from around this time show Indians dressed in buckskin jackets and pants with ornate and detailed bead work. They are adorned with necklaces, earrings, belts, bags, scarves, and head pieces. In their hands are pouches, purses, staffs, and tomahawks. These cultural objects were burned at this incinerator. Traditional regalia, some of it passed down for generations, went up in smoke.

The children were issued new clothes--simple wool or cotton skirts and blouses for the girls, collared shirts and dungarees for the boys. These were not simply white American styles, but those of working class Americans, reflecting the occupations of manual labor that children would be taught at Fort Spokane.

Recent archaeology has confirmed oral histories by uncovering beads and other remnants of native regalia that were brought to this incinerator to be burned.

Images

Sanitarium Incinerator

Sanitarium Incinerator

Traditional Indian regalia was burned in this incinerator to kill the deadly germs of tuberculosis. | Creator: Photo taken by Logan Camporeale 10/25/2016 View File Details Page

Indian Children in White Clothes

Indian Children in White Clothes

A group of small Indian boys standing outside their school building of logs. (Not Fort Spokane boarding school) | Source: Photo courtesy of the Spokane Public Library Ned M. Barnes Northwest Room | Creator: Photo taken by Frank Palmer in the early 1900s View File Details Page

Indian Scholars

Indian Scholars

Native American children in white clothing at the Chehalis Indian reservation. There are three white children in the center of the photo: Ben Hartsuck, Miss Pickering, and Mollie Hartsuck. | Source: Photo courtesy of the Washington State Digital Archives, State Library Photograph Collection | Creator: Photo taken by A. P. Hadley in 1888 View File Details Page

Indian Girl

Indian Girl

Colville Indian girl in traditional Native American regalia. | Source: Photo courtesy of the Spokane Public Library, Ned M. Barnes Northwest Room | Creator: Photo taken by Clair Hunt in 1911 View File Details Page

Salish Indian Chiefs

Salish Indian Chiefs

Group of seven Salish Indian chiefs in full traditional regalia. | Source: Photo courtesy of the Spokane Public Library, Ned M. Barnes Northwest Room | Creator: Photo taken by Frank Palmer in the early 1900s. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Logan Camporeale, “Sanitarium Incinerator,” Spokane Historical, accessed April 29, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/667.

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