Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 6, 2024

Native Children Starved, Victims of Medical Experiments, in Boarding and Residential Schools

Fort Albany Sisters of Charity of Ottawa National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

Native Children Starved, Victims of Medical Experiments, in Boarding and Residential Schools

By Brenda Norrell
Research by Dr. Michelle Cook, Dine'
Censored News, Feb. 6, 2024

Native children were starved during food experiments in residential schools in Canada, and left sick and untreated during medical experiments in boarding schools in the United States. Native women were sterilized without their consent by Indian Health Service. In IHS hospitals, the medical experiments range from controversial radioactive infusions to experimental vaccines.

Dr. Michelle Cook, Dine', said, "It is critical that Navajo people and boarding school survivors, including but not limited to Tuba City, are aware of the medical experimentations that were carried out on Indigenous children during these years."

Trachoma research was carried out on Native American children in three boarding schools: Stewart Indian School in Carson City, Nevada; Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah; and Tuba City Boarding School in Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, 1967 -- 68 and 1972 --73.

"The central question of the report focused on whether the Proctor Foundation obtained informed consent from these children’s parents before conducting its research," writes Samantha Williams. 
"Because Proctor viewed the IHS as the acting legal guardian of boarding school students, its researchers reasoned there was no need for parental consent."

Mohawk Mothers are now in court to secure the search for unmarked graves at the hospital site of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The U.S. CIA's MK-Ultra mind control experiments used drugs, electroshock, and torture at Allan Memorial Hospital. A survivor, who was a teen at the time, said Native children were among her fellow victims. She saw the hospital staff digging graves at night with red shovels.

Children starved at residential schools in Canada during experiments

“My mom went to a day school,” says Terri-Anne Larry, principal at Natoaganeg School in New Brunswick. “The teacher, the nun, fed them dog biscuits.”

Native children died from starvation, disease, abuse, torture and murder in residential schools in Canada. Tuberculosis was a leading cause of death, which spread rapidly because sick children were left to remain with healthy children.

At Blue Quills Residential School, records show students drank milk from on-site cattle several times a day. The same documents show there was no pasteurization equipment and the cows were not regularly tested for tuberculosis.

During the search for unmarked graves at Blue Quills, 
Acimowin Opaspiw Society Executive Director Leah Redcrow said, "These children died in the hundreds from drinking unpasteurized, raw cow’s milk."

Children of Norway House. Cross Lake Residential School The Indian Residential School on the Jack River on the Norway House Reserve, operated 1912 - 1914. Cross Lake was located on Kiché Sipi (Nelson River) at Cross Lake and was in operation from 1915 - 1969 (54 years). National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

Starvation and Malnutrition: Researchers Placebos Meant Sick Children Went Untreated

Malnutrition in Indigenous populations was studied in March 1942, when researchers traveled by bush plane and dog sled to Cree communities in northern Manitoba, reports Healthy Debate.

Researchers found residents in Norway House were living in conditions that were deplorable where the elderly were almost starved and were plainly not getting enough food to enable them to do much more than stay alive.

At the time, 85 per cent of their diet consisted of white flour, sugar, lard and jam.

"In residential schools, Indigenous children were fed just enough to dim the sharp pangs of hunger, sometimes receiving only 30 per cent of the daily calories they required. Schools received half of the funds needed to support a balanced diet. Fruits, vegetables, cheese, eggs and iodized salt were rarely found on the menu."

In 1944, survivors reported significant changes made to their usual foods when investigators were present – butter instead of lard, and meat and vegetable stew instead of broth.

Beginning in the fall of 1948, with support from the Department of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Services, researcher Lionel Pett conducted a series of five-year experiments on roughly 1,000 Indigenous children in six residential schools across Canada.

For a decade, he traveled across the country to run trials without consent, testing homegrown nutritional supplements, such as “blood sausage” and “meat spread,” with unapproved ingredients.

Alberni Residential School Alberni Indian Residential School, Vancouver Island a few miles outside of Port Alberni, adjoining the Tseshaht Indian Reserve, operated 1900 - 1973 (73 years). National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

"At Port Alberni in British Columbia, Pett tested the effects of tripling the students’ daily milk intake, from eight ounces – less than half the recommendation at the time – to 24 ounces. But for the first two years, he made no changes to the children’s diets so that he could create a baseline to compare to future results," Health Debate reports.

Children suffered during these controlled experiments and sick children were left untreated.

"At the Shubenacadie school in Nova Scotia, many children suffered from vitamin C deficiency and gingivitis. He treated half of the children with a supplement and gave the other half a placebo. These children were denied dental interventions fearing they would interfere with the experiments."

"At St. Mary’s in Ontario, Pett tested the effects of a flour fortified with vitamins and minerals – banned at the time for sale outside of Newfoundland.

"Children fed the fortified flour ultimately developed anemia," Healthy Debate reports.

The starvation and abuse of medical experiments were elements of genocide, primarily carried out by the Catholic Church, and other churches, following the mandate by the government of Canada to seize Native children from their families and place them in residential schools.

Starvation and Abuse at Port Alberni and St. Michaels

Leonard Pootlass, Nuxalk Nation, crippled and wearing leg braces, described the abuse and hunger.

"At the school in Port Alberni, he was beaten daily because he couldn’t speak English. He also wet his bed repeatedly and was forced by the staff to wash his own sheets in the tub. At the same time, staff would punish him by holding his head under the water. Leonard thought he might die, Coast Mountain News reports.

“I think they might have killed me if no one else was there,” he said. “It was not human, what they did to me, I was only 5 years old.”

The punishments were daily. He recounts a sensation of always having a mouth full of blood because he was struck in the face so often for being slower than the other children. “I think that’s why I lost all my teeth at a young age,” he says.

After about a year in Port Alberni, Leonard was moved to St. Michael’s Residential School in Alert Bay. 

“They basically gave us enough food to keep us alive,” he says. “There were worms in the porridge. At first, we would pick them out, but after a while, we didn’t care anymore, we were so hungry, and it was food.” Every afternoon a staff member would dole out biscuits around 3pm and the children would swarm him, running after him like dogs.

“It was a hell hole,” he recalls. “No one showed us any compassion, no love."

The abuse and deaths of residential school students in psychiatric hospitals are yet to be fully exposed.

The Pope Confirmed it was Genocide

The Pope said the Catholic Church was responsible for genocide in Native residential schools in Canada, as stated in the Vatican News

17 children were brought by canoes from Rupert's House to Moose Factory residential school, 1938. National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website. For the families.

Trachoma research in boarding schools without parental consent

Trachoma research was carried out on Native American children in three boarding schools: Stewart Indian School in Nevada; Intermountain Indian School in Utah; and Tuba City Boarding School in Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, 1967 -- 68 and 1972 --73.

The Indian Health Service said it was the legal guardian for the children while they attended the boarding schools, according to the researchers' reports, and parental permission to use students in medical experiments was not obtained.

The Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, University of California,  stated that tetracycline is the best treatment option. However, the side effects were itching, diarrhea, loss of appetite and rash. 

Because of the lack of parental consent, Proctor halted its medical experiments on Native children in boarding schools under pressure from the Children's Defense Fund.

Informed consent is required when an individual is considered at risk, as stated in HEW guidelines, the report states. HEW is the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Informed consent requires that experimental procedures be explained, as well as the discomforts and risks. There must be a description of expected benefits, along with the disclosure of alternative procedures. Further, there must be an offer to answer questions, and instructions that the participant can withdraw at any time.

Native Women Sterilized Without Consent by the Indian Health Service

Native women were sterilized by the Indian Health Service without their consent.

In a U.S. government document dated Nov. 4, 1976, the United States, under pressure, revealed some of these medical experiments underway in IHS hospitals. Although it is not a complete list, it documents the sterilization of Native women, the role of drug companies attempting to profit, and the disregard for parental consent of Native children in boarding schools and IHS hospitals.

A report by the U.S. Comptroller was issued under pressure from South Dakota Sen. James Abourezk and the Children's Defense Fund.

The report came during a time when many Native people spoke their first language, Dine', O'odham and Apache, and little attempt was made to gain informed consent in medical procedures. It came during a century of U.S. boarding school brainwashing, which included the kidnapping of Native children.

In the abuse that followed, Native children were forced to speak English and were "re-educated." During this time of re-education and brainwashing, children were militarized and brainwashed to serve in the U.S. military, the same military responsible for the massacres and genocide of their people.

The U.S. Comprtoller's alarming report shows there were 3,406 sterilizations of Native women carried out in the Indian Health Service hospitals in Aberdeen, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City in three years, 1973 --1976.

Of these, 1,024 were performed at IHS contract facilities.

The report found there was no informed consent. Native women were never told that they had the right to refuse sterilization by IHS doctors in Aberdeen, Phoenix, Albuquerque and Oklahoma City.

The sterilizations included Native women under the age of 21.

Jean Whitehorse, Dine', described what happened to her during a video interview with Censored News.

In Arizona and New Mexico, medical experiments targeted O'odham in experiments at Phoenix Indian Medical Center. A cardiovascular study used a radioactive element injected intravenously into O'odham in a study in 1975. O'odham were also used in a high-risk diabetes study at Phoenix Indian Medical Center in 1974.

Medical experiments were shut down at Gallup, N.M., Indian Health Service after Native patients became ill between the years of 1972 and 1975. The Gallup IHS service area includes Navajos, Zuni Pueblo, and other Natives in the area.

White Mountain and Navajo children with the victims of vaccine experiments by Johns Hopkins University for 40 years. 

Read more in our original coverage:

(Photo: Panguitch Indian School in Utah, near the Arizona border.) The bodies of 12 children were confirmed to have been buried at the site. The Paiute Tribe in Utah and its five sovereign bands released a statement in July. The children at the school were Kaibab Paiute and from other Native tribes. Paiute Statement

Klee Benally: The Genocide of Diseases

In his book published shortly before he passed in December, Klee Benally, Dine', described the trail of disease in boarding schools.

Klee points out that on March 7, 2020, in Chilchinbeto, a Christian group held a rally, which became the epicenter of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.

"As schools were closed in response to the crisis, the Rocky Ridge Boarding School -- located on Black Mesa just near land partitioned in the so-called Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute -- stayed open. Staff at the school had participated in the Chilchinbeto Christian rally and roughly a hundred students were exposed to the virus."

"This is not the first time that Christians and boarding schools have exposed our lands and Indigenous Peoples to the pandemic. COVID-19 is not the first virus our people have faced."

"From measles, smallpox-infected blankets, to the influenza epidemic of 1918 (when an estimated 2,000 Dine' perished) Indigenous Peoples have long been familiar with the colonial strategies of biological warfare," Klee writes in 'No Spiritual Surrender: Indigenous Anarchy in Defense of the Sacred."

Johns Hopkins Medical Experiments on Apache and Navajo Children

Johns Hopkins University carried out vaccine experiments on White Mountain Apache children in Whiteriver, Arizona, and Navajo children at Indian Health Service hospitals, for 40 years. There was very little information given to the public. Many of the parents of the children spoke Apache or Dine'.

The majority of the medical experiments were vaccines. The information is public on Johns Hopkins website today, but 40 years ago, in the early 1980s, Johns Hopkins staff at Fort Defiance Indian Health Service Hospital on the Navajo Nation would not reveal what type of medical research they were conducting on Navajos when questioned.

Meanwhile, in Guatemala, Indigenous families of victims of Johns Hopkins University filed a lawsuit in U.S. court, after they were deliberately given sexually transmitted diseases during medical in Guatemala. Of the patients, 83 died. Johns Hopkins claimed the U.S. government was to blame for funding it.

Johns Hopkins did not respond to Censored News questions three years ago, regarding the 40 years of vaccine experiments on Navajo children and White Mountain Apache children.

Johns Hopkins did not respond to our questions about the COVID-19 medical experiments on Navajos. Johns Hopkins controversial COVID experiments in IHS hospitals, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense included blood plasma transfers of Navajos from sick patients, to well patients, to increase antibodies.

Navajos and other Native Americans were also used in Pfizer drug studies during the first year of the spread of COVID-19.

Johns Hopkins used 460 Native Americans, including Navajos and White Mountain Apaches, in the COVID-19 vaccine test trials during the year 2020. The vaccine was produced by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, Johns Hopkins said.

Johns Hopkins led the COVID response for the Navajo Nation, which included the collection and release of data.

Censored News asked Johns Hopkins and the Indian Health Service about the collection and storage of Navajo DNA, but did not receive a response.

Earlier, Havasupai filed a lawsuit after discovering their DNA was used by Arizona State University in genetics research without their knowledge or consent. Supai won the case and reached a settlement.

Indian Health Service did respond to one of the questions asked by Censored News concerning medical experiments -- but only to say that IHS was not responsible for sickness or death caused by Johns Hopkins medical experiments in IHS facilities.

Here's what we asked, read more:

The abuse of medical experiments only intensified the suffering of children who grew up in boarding schools, in institutions without the love of their parents, and often with cruel abuse.

Annie Wauneka, chairman of the Navajo Tribal Health Board in 1960, pointed out the devastating trauma and lasting damage for small children taken from their families and placed in boarding schools.

St Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Canada. In the basement, there was an electric chair that was used to torture and terrorize children. Source: Location of 28 mass graves published in 2008, with updates, at Censored News


Medical Experimentation on Indigenous Boarding School Students
By Samantha Williams

‘As a matter of policy, kids were hungry in residential schools’: The dark history of Canada’s food guide
By Meghan McGee, Healthy Debate

Johns Hopkins fails to answer questions about medical research
Censored News

Department of Defense funds Johns Hopkins for COVID plasma studies on Navajos

First-person account by Lana Ponting
Mohawk Nation News

" I would sneak out of my room at the Allan at night, and walk down the front steps and I would hide. I found people standing over by the cement wall, with shovels. Two were on one side of the wall and one was on the other side. I remember that vividly because they had red handles on the shovels and a flashlight. What were they doing with shovels over by the concrete fence? There is only one thing that comes into my mind, were they burying something in the ground. What else could it be? There were rumors that there are bodies buried in the Allan property, and I believe that some of them would be Indigenous people."

Fort Providence residential school, date unknown (detail) National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
The Jack River Hostel was located on the Jack River, near Norway House. The hostel operated from July 1, 1960 - June 30, 1967 (7 years). The hostel was a student residence only. Before operating on its own, Jack River was an annex of the Cross Lake IRS from 1930 - 1960.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. Censored News content may not be used without written permission. Censored News content may not be used for any purpose for revenues --  including grants, dissertations, films, books, media, or any other purpose.

Photo copyrights National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and contributing entities.

About the author

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 42 years, beginning at the Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a stringer for the Associated Press and USA Today. After serving as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today, she was censored and terminated and created Censored News. She has a master's degree in international health, focused on infectious diseases, water and nutrition.

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