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Majors & Degrees

Behrends’ art on display in Hiawatha Asylum Exhibit

January 25, 2016

Dakota State University instructor, Angela Behrends, is one of four contributing artists of The Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux, which is opening the I Have The Honor To Report: Hiawatha Asylum Exhibit in Sioux Falls, S.D. The exhibit is a visual representation of the dismal past of the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians, a facility that operated in Canton, S.D., from 1902-1934.

The Asylum was open for more than thirty years, with a total of 391 Native Americans being admitted during that time. It closed after frequent complaints and investigations that uncovered deplorable living conditions and inhumane treatment of its residents. Records point to at least 121 deaths under the care of the Asylum.

“I am honored to be a part of Blood Run: Artists of the Big Sioux,” Behrends stated. “This group is doing important work in educating people about our history and where it collides with Native American culture and community.”

The artists of Blood Run worked collaboratively on five large pieces about the people that were committed to the asylum and the conditions they were forced to live in.

Behrends reflected on her understanding of the circumstances at the institution. “I learned about the asylum being heated with coal. I learned about the windows being sealed shut so that no one could escape. I learned about the place not getting cleaned. I learned about the chamber pots not getting emptied. I learned about people being chained to a radiator or a bed for a long time.”

Each artist also made individual work for the exhibition. Behrends’ contribution is called "Rest.”

“I made a charcoal rubbing on canvas for each of the 121 people who are buried in the asylum cemetery, all that remains of the facility, which is now part of the Canton golf course,” stated Behrends. “The people in the cemetery were laid to rest, but Jerry Fogg says that many more people died there and proper records were not kept. I chose this title for my piece both to honor the 121 in the cemetery and to ask, what happened to the rest?”

The artists chose to focus this exhibit on the Hiawatha Asylum for Insane Indians following the expiration of a 70-year government-imposed gag order. The I Have The Honor To Report, the title of the exhibition, is a reference to official asylum documents with included the phrase under the official letterhead of the Department of the Interior United States Indian Services.

Among the artists currently collaborating on the exhibition for Blood Run Artworks of the Big Sioux are multi-mixed media artist Jerry Fogg, Ihanktonwan Nakota Oyate; printmaker and art educator Chad Nelson; and mixed media and assemblage artist Chris Francis.

I Have The Honor To Report: Hiawatha Asylum Exhibit opened January 25, 2016, and runs through April 9, 2016. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Madsen/Nelson/Elmen Galleries of the Center's Fantle Building at 2121 South Summit Avenue, Sioux Falls, S.D.

The opening reception is Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 5-6 p.m. with a gallery talk at 5:15 p.m.