Date of Award

Spring 1980

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Because the Indian health service in the first decades of the twentieth century was unable to correct the economic and political origins of the "Indian health problem," the vigorous and progressive campaigns conducted by that service failed to eradicate significantly disease from among Indian people in the United States. At the turn of the century, the federal Indian schools spread tuberculosis among the children in attendance. Although made aware early in his administration that the schools were "death traps" and "charnel houses," ignorance of the etiology of the disease prevented Commissioner of Indian Affairs William A. Jones from acting decisively to curtail the contagion. As bacteriologists and public health officials disseminated information about tuberculosis, Commissioners of Indian Affairs Francis E. Leupp, Robert G. Valentine, and Cato Sells launched vigorous health campaigns, which were patterned after the anti-tuberculosis crusade of the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. A significant decline in Indian tubercular mortality did occur from 1915 to 1920. The National Tuberculosis Association mistakenly attributed the decline to the Indian office's efforts to provide sanitarium care, better housing, health education, and pure milk supplies for Indians. In fact, the thousands of Indians who turned to farming as a means of livelihood were responsible for the decline in tubercular mortality. The Indian office's campaign against trachoma, an insidious and prevalent eye disease, was successful in the schools, but made little progress on the reservations, where the family was the foci of the disease. In response to agitation from white reformers in the 1920s, the Indian office launched the Southwest trachoma campaign, but poor planning and mismanagement doomed the campaign from the start. Other progressive health projects included a "save the babies" campaign and a dental hygiene program...



Restricted Access Item

Having trouble?