Other than a recent mention in a film regarding Native boarding schools, Hiawatha's reality remains elusive to the American public. But not for long...
Fourteen years ago, our screenwriter stumbled across a book regarding the asylum and was shocked and disturbed by its contents. Interested in the asylum and its history, she began to research on her own, realizing that the truth had never been revealed to the public. She realized that a movie would be a great medium by which to release this information. This led her on an amazing trip through time where she had to remain decidely low-key in her research. The asylum, while a non-subject to the people of the City of Canton, is still a painful and dark subject for many Native Americans. Many elders still refuse to talk about Hiawatha or what went on there. Out of respect for their pain and the past, she progressed slowly and carefully, garnering information wherever and whenever she could.
After spending several weeks in the South Dakota State Historical Archives, she found herself talking to Harold Ironshield, a Lakota journalist and then head of the Native American Burial Restoration Committee. It was Mr. Ironshield who shed much more light on how much more went on behind the walls of Hiawatha, things that while barely touched upon in the state archives, had far more sordid detail in reality.
Seeing her determination and drive to see this project to completion on the screen, we at Still Springs joined her in the production process. In 2006 we joined forces with Dr. Todd Leahy of Fort Hayes State University, the foremost academic authority on the asylum. Dr. Leahy possessed far more information and documentation than the state archives regarding the asylum. We were able to see pictures of actual patients, learn the content (or lack thereof) of patient files and Dr. Hummer's journals. With a very well written Dissertation--which there is a link to on our Hiawatha links page--Dr. Leahy reveals the true and horrifying realities of Hiawatha, the abuse of its patients and the arrogant dictatorship of Dr. Hummer. All of this aided in creating a well rounded picture of the asylum and what truly went on there. The end result is Hiawatha Diary, a full length feature docudrama scheduled to start filming in 2007.