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Eugenics: Partial Bibliography on the Involuntary Sterilization of Native Americans in the 1970s.

September 28, 2011

Partial Bibliography on the Involuntary Sterilization of Native Americans in the 1970s.

Note on the bibliography…

Mesa Verde National Park – home of the Anasazi Native American civilization in SW Colorado

One of the most serious outbreaks of involuntary sterilization took place at Indian Health Service clinics throughout the USA. Complaints of sterilization abuse were brought to the attention of then US Senator James Abourezk from South Dakota in the 1970s. Abourezk demanded a General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation. An initial investigation was undertaken which verified the disturbing pattern of involuntary sterilizations, many of them done on women just after they had given birth and were often still under the effects of birth-related drugs and pain killers, ie. in no condition to give informed consent. Many of the women victimized denied that any permission to perform tubal ligations was even asked. Even this initial GAO probe revealed that several thousand women were so victimized. However no follow up investigation was ever done, a strange fact in and of itself given the initial results. 

Very little was reported on this incident in what might be called the mainstream press. A rare article can be found here and there in national newspapers. I have been told, but have not been able to verify that some local papers, especially in Oklahoma did report on the incident. In any case, given the possible scope of the injustice, and the general history of eugenics which was already known by the early 1970s, the lack of mainstream media attention is itself a curious thing. Anyone researching newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times – often considered among the best of the traditional print media – would come up empty, or nearly so. 

In order to find this story, it becomes necessary to turn to what has been labeled `the alternative media’. The main stories were covered in the nation’s Catholic newspapers and magazines, in the small but important Native American media (Akwesane Notes, American Indian Journal, the radical feminist press (very good articles in `Off Our Backs’ for example) and a few pieces in Marxist journals. A few other publications dealt with the story but very few. Although I have not done a thorough search, I do think it important to note that to my knowledge, no anthropological, sociological or historical mainstream journal has considered the story important enough to write about or discuss. 

It appears that a number of people are doing graduate work on this subject, including a Native American sociologist at the University of New Mexico, whom I met a number of years ago in Albuquerque. I have heard vague echoes of one or two others. Hopefully their research and work will soon be published and will add to our understanding of this painful episode in American cultural history. 

The following bibliography is purposefully limited in scope. It is meant to give those interested in pursuing this issue simply a starting point to address the subject. I intend to add to it as new information becomes available.

ARNOLD, CHARLES B. `Public Health Aspects of Contraceptive Sterilization’. in Behavioral-Social Aspects of Contraceptive Sterilization(Sidney Newman ed) Lexington Books. 1978

BASSON. MARK ed. Rights and Responsibilities in Modern Medicine. Alan R. Liss, 1981.

DILLINGHAM, BRINT. `Indian Women and IHS Sterilization Practices.’ American Indian Journal. January, 1977. Vol 3,1:27-28.

DILLINGHAM, BRINT. `Sterilization of Native Americans.’ American Indian Journal. July, 1977. Vol 3,7:16-19.

DILLINGHAM, BRINT. `Sterilization Update.’ American Indian Journal. October, 1977. Vol 3,10:25.

DILLINGHAM, BRINT. `Sterilization: A Conference and a Report.’ American Indian Journal. January, 1978. Vol.4, 1:13-16.

ENGLISH, CHARLES R. `A Look at the Indian Health Service Policy of Sterilizaiton, 1972-1976.’ AIM http//

GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE. Investigation of Allegations Concerning the American Indian Health Service. B-164031 (5); HRD-77-3. November 4, 1976. Released November 23, 1976.

HENRY, ALICE. `Sterilize Cynamid.’ Off Our Backs. March, 1979. p.10.

HENRY, ALICE. `China’s Population Policy.’ Off Our Backs. July, 1979. p.8

HENRY, ALICE. `Regulating Sterilization.’ Off Our Backs. January, 1978. p.16.

HENRY, ALICE. `Sterilization.’ Off Our Backs. July-August, 1977.

HORAN, JEAN. `Condition: Socio-economic treatment: Sterilization.’ Off Our Backs. January, 1977. p.6

JAIMES, M. ANNETTE, editor. `American Indian Women: At the Center of Indigenous Resistance in Contemporary North America.’ in The State of Native America: Genocide, Colonization and Resistance. Southend Press. Boston. 1992. pp. 324-327.

JARRELL, ROBIN H. `Native American Women and Forced Sterilization.’ Caduceus. Winter, 1992. p.45-58.

JERVIS, GAIL MARK. `The Theft of Life.’ Akwesasne Notes. September 1977. p. 30-32. (Article originally appeared in May 27, 1977 edition of the National Catholic Reporter.)

KRAUSS, ELISSA. Hospital Survey on Sterilization PoliciesACLU Reports. Reproductive Freedom Project. March 1975.

KRAUSS, ELISSA. `150,000 People Sterilized Annually.’ Big Mama Rag. May. 1975. p.4.LINDSAY ROLL, SUE. `Ban Indian Health Service sterilizations, minister says.’ Rocky Mountain News. January 28, 1978. p.48.

LAWRENCE, JANE. ‘The Indian Health Service and the Sterilization of Native American Women.’ American Indian Quarterly. Vol 24, No.3 (Summer, 2000), pp.400-419)

LARSON, JANET KARSTAN. “And Then There Were None: Is Federal Policy Endangering the American Indian Species?’ Christian Century. Jan. 26, 1977.

LIBERTY, MARGOT. `Rural and Urban Omaha Indian Fertility.’ Human Biology. Feb. 1976.

MARESCA, TERRY M. ‘The Impact of Federal Government Policies on American Indian and Alaska Native Health Care.’ Vol. 1. Health and Social Issues of Native American Women. Ed. Jennie r. Roe and Francine C. Cachupuin. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC 2012. 1 vols.

MILLER, MARK; JUDITH MILLER AND CHRIS SZECHENYI. `Native Peoples on the Trail of Tears Once More.’ America. December 9, 1978. 442-445. 

PAYNE, DIANA. `Indian Health Legislation – to Amend a Century of Neglect.’ American Indian Journal. 1976. p.23-24

POLGAR, STEVEN. `Population History and Population Politics from an Anthropological Perspective.’ Current Anthropology. April, 1972.

RABEAU, ERWIN S. & ANGEL REAUD:`Evaluation of PHS Program: Providing Family Planning Services for American Indians.’ American Journal of Public Health. August, 1969.

RUTECKI, GREGORY. `Forced Sterilizations of Native Americans: Late Twentienth Century Physician Cooperation with National Eugenic Policies.’ The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.October 8, 2010. (website: http;// -americans-late-twentieth-century-physician-cooperation-national)

TEMKIN-GREENER, HELEN. `Surgical Fertility Regulation Among Women on the Navajo Indian Reservation,’ American Journal of Public Health. April, 1981.

TORPY, SALLY J. `Native American Women and Coerced Sterilizations: On the Trail of Tears in the 1970s.’ American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 24:2 (2000) 1-22

TROMBLEY, STEPHEN. The Right To Reproduce: A History of Coercive Sterilization. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1988.

U.S. Dept of HEW. Family Planning, Contraception, Voluntary Sterilizaiton and Abortion. GPO. 1978

U.S. Dept of HEW. Indian Health Trends and Services (report). GPO. 1978.

WAGNER, BILL. `Lo, the Poor and Sterilized Indian.’ America. January 29, 1977. Vol136:75.

WEISBORD, ROBERT C. Genocide: Birth Control and the Black American. Greenwood Press. 1975.

WESTOFF, LESLIE A.& CHARLES F. From Now To Zero. Little, Brown & Sugar. 1971. 


More (less specific)

Akwesasne Notes. `Sterilization of Young Native Women Alleged at Indian Hospital.’ July, 1974.

Akwesasne Notes. `Killing Our Future: Sterilization and Experiments’. Spring, 1977

American Indian Journal (of the Institute for the Development of Indian Law). Feb., 1977

Doudera, A. Edward. “Informed Consent: How Much Should The Patient Know?”


Related Links:

Eugenics: Bibliography on Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve

Eugenics: The Scalpel and the Sword: (on the Native American Sterilizations)

Initial Bibliography on Nazi Eugenics

(bibliography revised – November 21, 2013)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2011 7:03 pm

    Was it only Native Americans that were subjected to this? I thought African-Americans were forcibly sterilized as well, along with some criminals and developmentally disabled?

  2. October 12, 2011 10:43 am

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  1. Eugenics: The Scalpel and the Sword: The Sterilization Campaign Targeting Native Americans in the 1970s.. « Rob Prince's Blog
  2. Eugenics: Initial Bibliography on Nazi Eugenics « Rob Prince's Blog

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