American Indian Sanitary Record of Sick, Injured, Births, Deaths, etc.

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Sometime before 1880, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington sent a directive to the Indian Agents on the various reservations, instructing them to keep a record of births, deaths, sicknesses, etc., requiring the attention of the physician at each agency.

Indian Sanitary Record.jpg

Content[edit | edit source]

These records were kept in bound volumes on a standard form, which provided for the recording of the following information:

1. Name
2. Sex
3. Disease
4. When Taken Sick
5. When Recovered
6. When Deceased
7. Aged

a. Over 5
b. Under 5

8. Births

a. Sex
b. Indians
c. Half-Breeds
d. White

9. Vaccinated

a. Successfully
b. Unsuccessfully

Later editions of the same form added the following columns:

10. Deaths by:

a. Homicide
b. Suicide
c. Execution of Sentence
d. Accident

Accuracy and Completeness[edit | edit source]

The accuracy with which these records were kept seems to have varied considerably. In some cases, the physician kept a very detailed account of all sicknesses of the Indians under his care, recording dates of death and dates of birth completely, and apparently as soon after the event as possible.

In other cases, less care was taken, with obvious gaps occurring in the records of some agencies. Occasionally births and deaths were recorded twice. Often, births were entirely unrecorded. Sometimes, only statistical summaries of births were recorded.

There were many transfers of physicians into and out of the reservations. Sometimes, several months went by on a reservation before the next physician arrived. Obviously, some of the gaps in the records were the result of there being no physician available at that reservation.

Availability[edit | edit source]

Some of these records are now housed at the various National Archives and Records Service facilities to which they have been transferred by the BIA offices on the reservations. Many are still in the respective agencies. Some, it is feared, have been lost due to the ravages of fire, flood, etc.

See also[edit | edit source]

History of Indigenous Peoples of the United States

American Indian Health Records