Snohomish County Career Fair - September 10
The Herald of Everett, Washington
Customer service  |  Subscribe   |   Log in or sign up   |   Advertising information   |   Contact us
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions

Oregon dedicates memorial to ‘forgotten souls’

  • Copper canisters that used to hold unclaimed remains line the walls of a new memorial at Oregon’s state mental hospital in Salem, Ore., on Monday. The...

    Jonathan J. Cooper / Associated Press

    Copper canisters that used to hold unclaimed remains line the walls of a new memorial at Oregon’s state mental hospital in Salem, Ore., on Monday. The canisters became a symbol of the nation’s history of mistreating, neglecting and warehousing the mentally ill.

SHARE: facebook Twitter icon Pinterest icon Linkedin icon Google+ icon Email icon |  PRINTER-FRIENDLY  |  COMMENTS
By Jonathan J. Cooper
Associated Press
Published:
  • Copper canisters that used to hold unclaimed remains line the walls of a new memorial at Oregon’s state mental hospital in Salem, Ore., on Monday. The...

    Jonathan J. Cooper / Associated Press

    Copper canisters that used to hold unclaimed remains line the walls of a new memorial at Oregon’s state mental hospital in Salem, Ore., on Monday. The canisters became a symbol of the nation’s history of mistreating, neglecting and warehousing the mentally ill.

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon officials on Monday dedicated a memorial for the unclaimed remains of 3,500 people dubbed the “forgotten souls,” most of them former patients at the state mental hospital who became a symbol of the nation’s history of mistreating, neglecting and warehousing the mentally ill.
The dedication comes a decade after lawmakers discovered the remains on a tour of the Oregon State Hospital. The remains were the impetus for a renewed focus on improving treatment for the mentally ill in Oregon.
“They had been forgotten. They were unclaimed and unknown,” said state Senate President Peter Courtney, who fought successfully to build a new hospital and the memorial after discovering the remains. “They were neglected, disrespected for so many years. But not anymore.”
Courtney said a new 620-bed mental hospital, which replaced an institution that was more than a century old, would not have been built without them.
The memorial displays the copper canisters, many severely corroded, that once contained the cremated remains. They are stacked from floor to ceiling in a restored building where they had been locked away.
To protect the remains, the ashes have been transferred to new ceramic urns and placed in a columbarium that surrounds an outdoor plaza. Each person’s name and birthday is on display. If someone is claimed, their name and ashes will be removed.
Between 1913 and 1971, more than 5,300 people were cremated at the hospital. Just over 3,400 remain.
Most were patients at the mental institution, but some died at local hospitals, the state tuberculosis hospital, a state penitentiary or the Fairview Training Center, where people with developmental disabilities were institutionalized.
They came from every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Nearly 1,000 were born abroad in 44 countries. Five were born at sea.
Twenty-two were Native Americans. Their remains will be returned to their tribe for a proper ceremony, and they won’t be part of the memorial. Members of the local Sikh community are working to claim the remains of two people.
Many of the 110 veterans still there will eventually receive proper military burials, though some are ineligible due to dishonorable discharges or insufficient information available.
“Despite the tragedy surrounding the discovery, I believe their lives were not in vain,” said Shannon Pullen, a mental health advocate whose brother is a patient at the hospital. “They have, in fact, started us on a path toward improved treatment for people in Oregon living with mental health issues.”
Story tags » Human InterestMental health

More Northwest Headlines

NEWSLETTER

HeraldNet Headlines

Top stories and breaking news updates

Calendar

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus