Information Insight’s CEO and Principal Consultant, Ellen Ganley, and fellow project founder Karen Perdue recently had the opportunity to speak about The Lost Alaskans: The Morningside Hospital History Project at the The 2019 Northwest Law & Mental Health Conference held on February 8 at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The project is an effort by volunteer researchers to document the history of Morningside through territorial court records, national and state archives, vital statistics, genealogical and burial records, and interviews. Their goals are to have the Morningside story recognized as an important part of Alaska history and to provide information to families still searching for loved ones who disappeared decades ago.
Prior to statehood, there were no services available in the Territory of Alaska for individuals who experienced mental illness or developmental disabilities. At the time, mental illness was considered a crime. Alaskan adults and children were arrested, convicted of being insane, and sent by the federal government to live at Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon. They were taken from their families and communities by dog sled, train and boat. In the end, at least 4,500 Alaskans were sent to Morningside between 1904 and the 1960s, when Morningside was finally closed. Many were never heard from by their families again.
The Northwest Law & Mental Health Conference brings together dozens of expert speakers with legal, clinical, and lived experience to discuss the confluence of law and mental illness. The event is produced annually as a program of the Mental Health Association of Portland, and has been held in 2000, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
We are proud of Ellen and her continued work on The Morningside Hospital History Project. The research team has grown into an organization with volunteers across the country, and new information continues to flow in. To learn more about the project or to look through patient records visit morningsidehospital.com.