Ella Craig was interviewed by Karen Brewster and Bill Schneider with videography by Deborah Lawton and Aaron Elterman of KUAC radio/tv, Fairbanks on June 10, 2009 at the Marriot Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. This was a follow-up to the first interview to record onto broadcast quality videotape some of Ella's key stories and experiences related to Morningside Hospital,being a social worker in the early days, and the delivery of mental health services in rural Alaska. So, some of this interview may be a repeat of the first interview, or in some cases she may tell the same story in a different way.
Ella was also interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on November 13, 2008.
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Section 1: Establishment of social services in Kodiak, Alaska in the early 1950s.
Section 2: Her work as a social worker in Kodiak, and the difficult situation of having to remove children from their families.
Section 3: Removing children from their families and sending them to Morningside Hospital.
Section 4: Reintegration into the community upon return from Morningside Hospital.
Section 5: The isolation of patients at Morningside Hospital, and the various means of financial assistance available to patients.
Section 6: Escorting a child to Morningside Hospital, and the positive effect of the Mental Health Trust board on delivery of social services.
Section 7: Role of the Mental Health Trust Authority in providing new services and funding for mental health and social services in Alaska.
Section 8: Building treatment programs in Alaska, and description of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
Section 9: A story about a young girl taken from a village to the hospital in Anchorage, being separated from her family, and the poor system in place at the time for admitting and tracking rural patients.
Section 10: Grassroots efforts advocating for local mental health services around Alaska, and a success story in the foster child care program.
Section 11: Her involvement with establishing the medical foster care system, and the rewards of having a long career as a social worker in Alaska.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I'm Karen Brewster, and here in Anchorage with Ella Craig. Today is June 10th, 2009, and interview related to the Mental Health Trust Project.
And Ella, thank you for coming and talking with us again.
This is a follow-up to our first interview that we did in November 2008. And what I wanted to talk about today is specifically about the work you did as a social worker and how that related to Morningside.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum. KAREN BREWSTER: And so why don't you tell us a little bit about your first experience as a social worker in Alaska.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, my first experience, assignment was in Kodiak, and of course, there were no social services programs. And they had never had a social worker in Kodiak before, so it was a learning experience for the people in Kodiak, as well as certainly for me. But it was an interesting experience because we didn't have resources, particularly for anyone with any sort of mental illness or there was no psychiatrist, anything of that sort, so it was a very difficult situation even to identify a person with mental illness. And then to know what plans to make for them was even more difficult, of course. But at that time, the territory did not have resources other than a contract with Morningside Hospital in Oregon, and anyone who was judicially deemed mentally ill was shipped off to Morningside.
(Pause.) KAREN BREWSTER: Ella, you were saying that when you arrived in Kodiak, there were no services there.
ELLA CRAIG: Correct. Uh-hum. There were no social services. They had not ever had a social worker in Kodiak previously. And it was a village or a town or a city, I believe it was called a city at that point, very small population, but it was next to the Kodiak Naval Station, so there were many, many problems among the population. And the need for social services was very apparent. And the mayor had requested the social worker. And I was recruited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to come to Alaska and accept an assignment in Kodiak. KAREN BREWSTER: And what year was that?
ELLA CRAIG: 1953. Uh-hum. And I went first to Juneau, and went to Kodiak, I believe it was the latter part of June or the early part of July in 1953. And of course, the whole matter of finding a place to live and finding an office and all this sort of thing took a great deal of time before we were able to find a Quonset hut and establish an office. And then we started dealing with the problems that were apparent to just about everybody at that point.
KAREN BREWSTER: And you said that before this, the -- the judicial system was involved. ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Anyone with a mental illness or who was determined to have a mental illness by the -- either the law enforcement people or the community people or anyone in the community that they thought was causing problems, they would take that person to a commissioner, and in Kodiak it was a commissioner, and the commissioner would decide that person needed to be sent to Kodiak -- I mean, to Morningside, which was in Oregon. And this was a facility that was on the contract with the territory, and so people were given a ticket to go to Morningside.
KAREN BREWSTER: And how did they get there? ELLA CRAIG: They were either taken by the law enforcement officers or they were given a ticket and put on a plane, or different ways. It depends. I took a couple of people down, as I recall. But once they were in -- under the custody of the law enforcement people, they would make the arrangements for the transportation, and sometimes the Territorial Welfare Department would pay or sometimes the Bureau of Indian Affairs would pay for the clients that we had been obliged to place there. Section 2:
KAREN BREWSTER: And now you had experience with children, in taking children to Morningside; is that correct?
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Uh-hum. Those are two children I can recall that I took down. And these were -- one was a teenager and the other was I think about 11. But they were older children who were causing problems. And -- and they really, as we know today, they really weren't mental health problems. They were more family problems. There was a lot of drinking, and the kids would stay out late at night, and you know, in the summertime, who doesn't up here. And so it -- they were seen as a problem for the community, and -- or either somebody didn't like them and they would report them, and of course, the law enforcement people would just accept people's word for it and they would take them into the commissioner who would -- or judge who would decide that they were in need of health, mental health treatment, which we didn't have. So it was not a good situation, certainly. And -- but it was several years before we had a psychiatrist in the state, and certainly paraprofessionals who had experience with treatment of mental illness were certainly few and far between. KAREN BREWSTER: And how were you accepted in Kodiak in the relationships with the families that you had to deal with, with these problems and social issues?
ELLA CRAIG: I think they were so happy to have someone they could talk with and could explain their problems to that it was a very comfortable situation. And of course, I was supposed to only work with the Native people because I was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but I worked with everybody in Kodiak and that was kind of an informal agreement with the territory welfare system. So I did most of their work also. But I never once felt any rejection of me as a person or as a social worker. They were very, very kind to me and very open with me and would seek me out just to talk, and not for financial assistance or assistance with other problems, but just to talk about things that they were feeling or problems of their own. KAREN BREWSTER: Now, were there cases where you had to go to a family and remove a family member?
ELLA CRAIG: I did, but back then, it was only with the concurrence of the family. I never used the judicial system to remove any kid from the family. If we would talk with the family and the family would decide the child needed to be placed outside the home, then we would get a written agreement from them requesting that we do that. And all the stories you hear about the social workers going in and taking the children didn't happen in territorial days by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. So.
KAREN BREWSTER: It still must be hard, though, to go into a home and remove a child? ELLA CRAIG: It's -- it's very difficult. It's very difficult. And we did have a lot of that in the early years because there was so much tuberculosis, and if the person was so ill they couldn't care for the children, and they were so ill they had to be taken to the hospital, they might not even be in the home, so you really had to find a place for the children to stay. And that -- there was a lot of that. We had large families, small families, and we'd have to place whole families of children. And it was difficult because we wanted to place them together, and it's very difficult to find one -- a family that will take 7 children or 12 children or over 1. I mean, you can usually manage 1, but to take a whole family, it was very difficult. So. But somehow as I look back on it, we managed. Section 3:
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you speak about some of the social issues or mental health issues that people were facing when you arrived there?
ELLA CRAIG: A large number of them were related to alcoholism, drinking, and no one had ever really dealt with that. This was before AA, before any of your programs related to alcohol use. And this is something that had been going on for a long period of time. And then with tuberculosis being so rampant also, you had the combination, and of course, then, child care was very, very limited, primarily because the parents were too occupied with other problems of their own and just didn't have the opportunity or the strength to care for them. So it was a -- it was a difficult time. And there were a lot of children who were placed out of home. And at that time, there were a lot of orphanages which weren't really orphanages, but they were large facilities that cared for children. And in Kodiak particularly, they had the Kodiak Baptist Mission, which was one of the largest and the oldest facilities that was established by the Baptist congregation. And this was difficult also because the majority of your Native people, of course, are Russian Orthodox, and to place them then in a Baptist facility where back then, you know, you -- they had to do all of the things that were required of the Baptists in the mission, so it was a very difficult time for the children, as well as their parents. Because they had no access to the Russian Orthodox religion at that point, during their formative years, where the whole family was Russian Orthodox, and then they were raised and trained as Baptist, Southern Baptist. KAREN BREWSTER: And now were those children eventually reunited with their families?
ELLA CRAIG: Some were, but the majority were not because the parents didn't survive or the children were placed eventually with other relatives, and there were even instances of children being lost and not accounted for. And some would go to hospitals and never go home. And the parents would wonder where they were.
It was a situation where, compared to today, they were very difficult to work with, but you -- you tried, you used your best judgment and the skills that you had been trained to have, and did the very best you could, but it still wasn't what we would like to have had at that time, and certainly would not compare with the standards that we have hopefully attained over the years. KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned that you escorted people to Morningside. Tell me a little bit about that process and what Morningside was like.
ELLA CRAIG: Morningside was a large facility, and I don't recall the number of beds they had at this point. It was a nice looking building or buildings. And the staff were very accommodating and very professional, in their own way, but this was -- it was an institution. And the children, because of cost and what have you, were escorted there, dropped off, I returned home, they stayed.
And this was the first time that many of them had been on long trips on airplanes. Now, of course, they had ridden on airplanes much more than they had ever ridden in a car, but it was still a difficult situation for them. And certainly for the parents. But I think that from the best of the knowledge that I've been able to get, I think the people at Morningside did receive adequate care. Certainly treatment for mental illness that long ago doesn't compare to what it does today, but there were people there who were there because they drank and were a disturbance to the community. And of course, being away from alcohol and with the treatment they were able to give them, many of them returned home very quickly.
These were primarily the adults, of course, because it took a lot longer with the children simply because they didn't have that much information about them, and not having a family member with them, it was very difficult for them. Section 4:
KAREN BREWSTER: So speak more about that, people coming back from Morningside and their reintegration into their community.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, they would notify the agency that had been responsible for bringing them or that had paid for their transportation because they would have to contact the agency to get transportation home for them. And it was difficult for the people coming back, but the children, of course, I think just thought it was another placement for them. And they didn't have the feeling about having been there that the adults did. The adults felt that they were stigmatized by having been in the treatment facility for the mentally ill. And they -- and of course, the people in the community would refer to them as crazy or you had to go to Morningside or make statements to them that were taunting to them. And I think it was a very difficult time for them. And then to come back into a community and be unemployed and people didn't want to employ them because they were -- had been discharged from Morningside and that sort of thing, so it was -- it was a difficult time for them.
KAREN BREWSTER: There wasn't any assistance available to help with that transition? ELLA CRAIG: Some financial assistance, but very little from either the territory or from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. You know, it was food, clothing and shelter, that was about it.
But in terms of placement for either training or for work placements, there was a stigma attached to it and people didn't want to hire them. I mean, even such simple things as baby-sitting, you know, and this, of course, with so many children, there was always a call for babysitters, and people who had children still were reluctant to have them in contact with their families. And yet, their only problem had been maybe drinking more than the U.S. Marshal thought they should drink, and had convinced somebody that they were different and needed to have treatment for mental illness. And it -- I mean, maybe Kodiak was different and it wasn't the same all over, but it certainly was pretty much the same in most of the small communities. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have any examples of people's experiences with reintegration, either successful or problems somebody may have had? Are there any particular ones that stick out?
ELLA CRAIG: The -- one of the teenagers or the teenager that I took down did come back, went back to school, and did get employment, it was manual labor, but he did get work. And he didn't have the same atmosphere, but again, he lived in a different place, he was not from Kodiak, he was from the Copper River area, up in that area. And he did okay, and into adulthood, he was fine. The 11 year old, I don't recall what happened to him. And then, of course, my favorite story about my -- my older woman or not old, in Kodiak, who was there and hers was primarily for drinking and then disturbing the community, and she -- she was a very, very likeable, nice person, and did housework and that sort of thing, so she never had any other particular type of job. But I recall at the time that she was in the grocery line and talking loudly and wanting the cashier to hurry and he wouldn't hurry, and he finally screamed at her and said, oh, why don't you shut up, you need to be back in Morningside, you're crazy. And she, of course, screamed back at him and she says, I'm not crazy, I have papers to prove I'm not. She says it says right here I'm able to return home, I don't have to be in Morningside anymore and don't need any further treatment. She said, have you got a piece of paper saying you're not crazy? So this, of course, amused quite a few people, but it really caused the owner of the grocery store to just sort of take stock again, and he had to eventually admit that he was not very kind to her, and that he should have known better than to try to intimidate her in that manner.
But she did okay after she got back, and up until the time of her death, she did fine. Section 5:
KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned when somebody was at Morningside, what was the contact that they continued to have with their families or people from home?
ELLA CRAIG: They were -- they were there. And most of the family went down on their own, which, of course, very many are not -- there weren't very many that did that simply because of the cost of transportation, as well as a place to stay, I mean, you know, to be there. So you could be there for years without any contact at all unless there was someone from the state or the territory who was going down and just visiting them and make contact with them.
And I was able to do that, oh, two or three times, but there were very few people from the state who went down and who visited with them, or even took the time to go see anybody who was there if they happened to be in Oregon, so it was not an easy situation. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think it could have been different?
ELLA CRAIG: I don't know. It couldn't -- had we had staff here, they could have been treated here. But we didn't have staff for quite a long time. And when we, of course, had the first psychiatrist, then they started bringing the people back and they were integrated into the system, then, and did have follow-up with the Public Health Nurses, as well as the nurses coming, the social workers who were on the staff at the mental health division. And so that was good. That worked pretty well. KAREN BREWSTER: And was that when API, the hospital, was in existence?
ELLA CRAIG: It was when they were first beginning to talk about -- well, API was being built at that time, as was the Native Hospital, so we were beginning to have facilities which could accept the people that needed to be here and that we needed to have services for. But it took a long time. KAREN BREWSTER: Talk a little bit more about how services changed, and through your career, how that developed. ELLA CRAIG: Well, of course, when I came, there were no private services, there was not anything in Kodiak. There was one Public Health Nurse who had the whole Kodiak Peninsula and who traveled to the outlying communities, and she did immunizations and just home visits and well child conferences. She did do that. So even back that long ago. And then they didn't have any of the private agencies there. And when I moved -- excuse me -- to Anchorage, after about a year and a half in Kodiak.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. We were talking about the services and how they've changed and there were so few organizations and what it's become now, and you talk about private organizations, but there was state and you were BIA, you were trying to do things, talk more about that. ELLA CRAIG: Well, there was such a division of services because I had the unique opportunity of helping to write some of the policies that applied to the Bureau services, because it was all new and I was here. And the -- in terms of financial assistance, for example, to Native people, we would use the Social Security standards which were much higher than the territory, and ultimately the state, which meant that we had two systems of -- financial assistance for the people that we were serving. And the Native people would get assistance that was based on their need, and the people who received assistance from the territory got a flat rate of something like -- well, it was $80 or something like that. It was a very small amount of money. And I remember one time we were comparing, and the people who were receiving assistance from the Bureau were getting an average of between 3- and $400, and the people from the territory were getting -- the non-Native people were getting -- I think it was $60 at that time. So it took a lot of tightrope walking to keep these things in proper perspective because there was a lot of resentment among not only the clients, but the agencies.
And I can remember one of the elder Native ladies one time said to me, she said, you know, I think I could live and be much happier if I received the same thing as the non-Native people do. Even though it's a much smaller amount, she said, at least I would feel that we were all being treated equally, which I thought was a really interesting point of view because you think in terms sometimes of people who are receiving assistance through welfare agencies of, you know, they want as much as they can get kind of thing is the public's reaction to it. And we were truly trying to meet needs and we would verify this, and not -- and it was not just, you know, handing out checks kind of thing. But even the -- many of the Native people felt a great deal of compassion for the Non-Native people who didn't have enough to meet the need back in those days. Which was kind of reverse discrimination. Section 6:
KAREN BREWSTER: Back to your experience with escorting people to Morningside.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum.
KAREN BREWSTER: I think one of your experiences with one of the children that you --
KAREN BREWSTER: Tell me a little bit more again about taking those children to Morningside. ELLA CRAIG: Well, I can recall -- of course, some of the things that were a little more unusual stand out. And I can recall taking one of the youngsters down who was just a delightful young kid, and but he had a very loud, booming voice. And we were on the plane.
Of course, when you were flying back then, you knew practically everybody on the plane, and everybody kind of knew you. It was much different than today's travel is. But we boarded the plane and we got on and we were sitting across the aisle from each other on the aisle seats, and he wanted to get up and look around, so I finally said to him, I want you to promise me you will stay seated and remain here, I have to go to the bathroom.
So I got up and I started, and he, in his loud, booming voice, he says, Mrs. Craig, have you got to go pee? And so I attempted to shush him, and what have you, but he insisted, until I came back and whispered to him, yes, I'm going to the bathroom, now will you please be quiet.
So that was kind of the way it happened, but one of my embarrassing moments, shall we say. But it went well. KAREN BREWSTER: I'm also interested to know a little bit more about the process, the judicial process in the use of the marshals in their labeling of people and sending them to Morningside. And was that --
ELLA CRAIG: That was primarily in Kodiak, although they used the judicial system here, but the marshal would really -- there would really round up people that had given him difficulty, that he felt had given him difficulty. And he would take them into the commissioner, and since he was the top law enforcement officer, nobody would question him and they would just say the person needs to go to Morningside. And that would be it. No discussion. And basically, it was -- it was people who -- teenagers who stayed out late after curfew, who maybe had been drinking, maybe were making a lot of noise or disturbing his town, because this was his town. KAREN BREWSTER: It sounded like a bit of a power play.
ELLA CRAIG: He was absolutely, uh-hum. Absolutely controlled or attempted to control just about everything. And had his way with just about everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Back to the services and how those changed, you've been involved with social work and social services for a long time in Alaska, so you have a long perspective. How do you see how things have changed with the Mental Health Trust settlement and the establishment of the Mental Health Trust Authority? ELLA CRAIG: Oh, I think it has made it a remarkable difference because, first of all, the availability of additional funds for programs that can be of service to the beneficiary groups has just been fantastic. And they -- there have been some special projects that have been very good, they have certainly been leaders in the whole field of mental health, no question about that. A very, very good thing that happened to us. KAREN BREWSTER: Are you aware of individuals or local organizations that kind of fought for and advocated for facilities or programs and how that worked?
ELLA CRAIG: Certainly starting back with Mrs. Gottstein and Jim and the whole group there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Tell me more about that. ELLA CRAIG: Well, she, of course, was one of the original people that was interested in mental health services and started a great deal of the activity related to mental health services. And with the land claims, I mean, the allocation of the land bit for the Trust, this was all a result of her previous activity, the details of which I don't have all the -- the specific details, but with the establishment of Mental Health Trust. And certainly the first board, which was a statewide board, they did a remarkable job. And I give a great deal of credit to the first chair of the board, which was Nelson Page, and to Jeff Jessee, the first executive director. Oh, my, they have done so much that so many people really don't realize, and a lot of it has been, you know, behind the scenes working, but with providing and understanding and recognizing the need for education and the need for services to the four beneficiary groups, which are the handicapped disabled, and the alcoholics, and the senior group, the ADR groups, and there's another one. Just a second. KAREN BREWSTER: The mentally disabled or --
ELLA CRAIG: Disabled.
KAREN BREWSTER: I don't know what that word is.
ELLA CRAIG: There was another one. There are four groups. Section 7:
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you give some examples of -- of things that you think Jeff and Nelson were very influential in? ELLA CRAIG: I think educating the public, and having a -- having people have a better understanding of the fact that to provide services to this group of people, I mean the four beneficiary groups, takes funds, and the territory or the state, the state at this point, was not providing adequate services, did not have a behavioral science -- I mean, a behavioral services program as a part of the state health and services. We had API, but that -- that was about it as far as mental health service was concerned. And I think they did the Trust with the board, and back in each of the communities, they did so much to promote services. I mean, and John Malone from Bethel was very prominent in promoting the whole mental health program. And certainly the people in Fairbanks who were members of the board, and I can say I really have a great deal of admiration and praise for things that they were able to do. And are still doing, for that part. Uh-hum. And they partnered with other organizations in the community or the state and provide services that would not be provided otherwise, and they do it because they have an understanding of the need in their local people, and they are -- will listen to what the needs are. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have an example of what one of those services that might not be here now or wasn't around when you needed it that's now available because of it?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, all of your treatment programs for alcohol treatment programs. The disability community, the youngsters -- we had no services here. The majority of the kids were placed outside of the state for any specialty programs that they needed. And we just did not have the facilities nor the people who were trained to provide the services. And the Mental Health Trust has -- they have provided funds for training of people. Even social workers, they -- we -- when we got a school, they provided programs for that program -- for that service. We didn't have that prior to the Trust. And I don't think we would have had it otherwise. And there are just any number of services that -- at the moment, the Geriatric Education Center at the university has a cooperative agreement with the Trust for training of caregivers and people who provide services for disability group, as well as for seniors. And they are -- they are not duplicating any services that are going on anyplace else, but it would not have been possible without the Trust recognizing the need and providing the funding for it because there's no other place it would come from. Section 8:
KAREN BREWSTER: Were there grassroots efforts by family members who wanted to bring people home and have them treated closer to home?
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. They are doing that at the present time. And I think we only have a -- maybe a few of a hundred youngsters Outside, and they started out with 400 and some, and the Trust has been very active in that activity. They provided a lot of funding and expertise in dealing with that. KAREN BREWSTER: What about before there was the Mental Health Trust Authority, was there efforts to bring people home?
ELLA CRAIG: No. Because you didn't have anything to bring them to if they needed specialized care. We didn't have a staff, we didn't have a facility, we didn't have anything. If a person needed treatment, for example, for autism, we had to find a place in the Lower 48 that would treat them because there were no facilities and there wasn't anyone who was specialized here in treatment. And now we are gradually getting a few people who are. KAREN BREWSTER: You mentioned API. Would you talk a little bit about what -- we talked about what Morningside was like. What was API like as an institution and a type of care provided? ELLA CRAIG: Well, I don't know that they've ever been adequately funded or staffed. I don't know this but I know people would go and stay and be discharged. It was kind of off by itself. Not -- or seemed to be from the standpoint of other agencies. And of course, you could self-admit. You could go if you required -- you could be admitted by authorities and ordered to OPI -- API. But they've had a lot of changes and staff administrators have changed. Training for staff in Alaska is very difficult, and so it's kind of been -- it's where people go. And -- but they come back to the community sometimes before they are ready to come back, and there's not -- the community is not ready to receive them. And we've had some pretty bad incidents where they've been released too early, and we've had some murders and things of that sort over the years, uh-hum. So they have never been able to have adequately trained staff sufficient to care for the people they have.
And of course, as a state agency now, they can restrict people from admission, so it's -- they can decide who they will take. KAREN BREWSTER: Am I correct that you worked there for a --
ELLA CRAIG: I beg your pardon?
KAREN BREWSTER: Did you work at API?
ELLA CRAIG: No. I have worked as a volunteer there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
ELLA CRAIG: Years ago, but never on staff. Section 9:
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I think that kind of covers my questions and unless you have more to talk about Morningside that you remember about it.
ELLA CRAIG: I don't think there's a great deal that --
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you think it was comparable to other facilities at the time? ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Very definitely. Perhaps many that I've seen in the Lower 48 and had had some experience with before I came to Alaska, Morningside was far superior. Even the location and the buildings and the surroundings and the flowers and this kind of thing, much better than many of the warehouses in the Lower 48. Much better. Hopefully all of them have improved, and I think they have, according to the literature and the things I read. And I can only hope that's true.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have experience with any family members not knowing where other family members went, they -- they -- someone was taken away and nobody ever knew what happened to them? ELLA CRAIG: Yes. I can remember one specific incident that will always remain with me.
A young girl was admitted to the hospital in Anchorage, and you have to remember, communication was very difficult and there would be maybe one phone in a community. And you would leave a message, and this would be at the teachers' or the school or the teachers' quarters. And you could leave a message there and it might get to the person or it might not. So the plane would be dispatched to pick up so-and-so that had been reported by the Public Health Nurse to be as a tuberculosis patient who needed to be in treatment immediately. The plane, small plane would land, they would say who they had come for, she hadn't been prepared, nor had her family half of the time. They would pick her up, bring her back. And I can recall a youngster for one of the -- from one of the villages out in Bethel who was admitted to the hospital, and when they signed her in, they used her last name as her first name, which I understand is sometime -- sometimes common with the Eskimos, or it was back then. So her parents, although ill, would frequently inquire about where she was. And they would call the hospital. And the hospital would check their records and they'd say we have no id -- no record of anyone by that name here. And they would say, well, she's probably been sent to Mount Edgecumbe or down to the Lower 48, because we were sending a lot of patients down to Washington and Oregon at that time. And this young girl was in the hospital for well over two years, and according to the hospital records, there had been no contact with the parents. But her parents had tried desperately to locate her and to find her but always the same thing, no one by that name. So some years later, I think it was about -- she'd been there maybe three or four years by this time, and a couple on base decided they wanted to adopt her because they had heard about her through someone who worked at the hospital, this poor little girl who didn't have anybody or any family. And so they were in the process of trying to adopt her. And there had never been any termination of parental rights. And of course, when they tried to terminate her rights, in the meantime the family out in the village had been contacting -- oh, I'm sorry -- a nutritionist. Okay. Talking with my hands. I'm sorry. KAREN BREWSTER: So back in the village, what was going on?
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Back in the village, the parents had been contacting a nutritionist who visited the village on a periodic basis trying to find out where their daughter was. And she contacted me and we went over to the hospital and went through all of their records and what have you, and finally she was able to determine what had happened in terms of their records there. And so they immediately said, no, this girl has to be reunited with her parents. And in the meantime, one of her parents, I can't recall whether it was a father or mother, but I think it was her mother had passed away. So we made arrangements for her to go back to the village, and by this time, there had been too many years passed, she didn't know them, they didn't know her, and of course, in the meantime, the couple was still plying her with all good wishes wanting her to come and live with them because they had gotten to know her and they had visited her here. And they were making all the legal moves they could to adopt her. So we had to get the priest involved, we had to get everybody in the village involved because we felt that we really had to give it the best possible chance that we could to have her return and know her own people.
And unfortunately, it didn't work out because she went back and stayed for a while, but then she became a teenager, she came back into the city on her own, and didn't do too well for several years. I think finally did marry and hopefully things are okay for her now.
But the Caucasian couple put such pressure on her and offered so many things to her to stay with them and to like them better than her parents who were in the village that it was very difficult for her. And think how difficult it must have been for the parents, and certainly all of the people who were working with her and people in the hospital, it was just a -- just a really, really sad situation for them. Very bad. But that truly happened, and so this was a girl who was lost in the system. And when I think back, I -- it was nobody's fault particularly because as she -- I mean, certainly she should have had somebody with her when she came in, but it was a person in the hospital who knew her and who helped sign her in, or at least knew that she was Eskimo and where she was from, but didn't know her parents, but she was the one apparently who used the Eskimo name as a first name. So things that we didn't know then that we are aware of now, so. But it shouldn't have happened Section 10:
KAREN BREWSTER: All right. Well, thank you. I think we'll take a switch to Bill ask some questions.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay, good to talk with you again, Ella. I've been listening to the recording so far and there's a couple of questions I have. You mentioned Jim Gottstein's mom.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum. BILL SCHNEIDER: And I wasn't aware that she played a role in this whole field. Can you give us some background on that?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I can recall that she was instrumental in helping to establish a local organization related to mental health, and we used to go to meetings, people with organizations and what have you, and discuss our needs related to mental health. And I know she had a definite concern about the lack of services for people with mental illness, and she was certainly instrumental in bringing agency people together, as well as people in the community. And we started out as a small community group, but it eventually was a state organization, as I recall. And -- but she was well recognized back in the early, early, early days of services. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. The reason I was asking was because it's interesting in the Fairbanks area, Margaret Lowe was talking about Mary Carey and her involvement.
ELLA CRAIG: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And Dan Branson -- Brandon, Dan Brandon was talking about -- I'm sorry, Don Brandon was talking about his mother and her involvement in trying to organize local efforts to provide services locally as opposed to institutional. ELLA CRAIG: Well, she was -- she was definitely one of the -- from my standpoint, she was -- she was the person that as a -- one of the very few social workers, she was one of the people that we recognized as very involved with the mental health services, or the need, recognized the need for mental health services, and certainly I know that Mary Carey was up in Fairbanks, too.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
ELLA CRAIG: Because I knew her and what she was up to. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that's -- that's a neat part of the story that we can fold in now.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: The other thing I wanted to mention was Nelson Page said that you were very instrumental in his family's efforts to have a foster adoption for a child. Could you tell us what you recall of that. ELLA CRAIG: Well, yes. We were looking for a placement for a youngster who had been in the neonatal clinic, I think probably one of the first patients there, and we could not find anyone to care for this child because his needs were so many at that point. And it was -- Kayleen was a nurse on the neonatal unit, and she decided that they could accept him as a foster child. And they did an absolutely outstanding job. If anyone would write an article about ideal foster parents in Alaska, it would certainly be them at that point because they took him to visit his parents, the parents came in to visit, and these are things that just don't happen with the children from the village most of the time. But they were -- they were great with him.
And it got to the point that he couldn't return to his village, even though he had close contact with his parents, but he had never lived in a village, and by this time, because of many of his needs, he was a teenager, and so he lived with them, and so he stayed and they adopted him, which we usually didn't encourage, but because of the special needs and the special circumstances, we felt it was very, very appropriate. And they did an excellent job with him.
And it's -- he's an outstanding young man, and just very, very handsome youngster. Doing quite well, I understand. Section 11:
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think that's a great place for -- for me to stop here.
ELLA CRAIG: Yes.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Was -- is there anything more to be said at this point about the development of medical foster care system for developmental disabilities? Were you involved in -- in -- ELLA CRAIG: Yes, we did have medical foster care homes, and we worked very closely with the Public Health Service and the hospital, the Native Hospital, and a child who needed extended medical care was placed in a medical foster home. And we had a large number of children with ear problems. We've had more operations with children's ears in Alaska than the whole United States, I think there have been more surgical procedures on children here. And they couldn't go, even though they were ready, otherwise they couldn't go directly back home, they had to stay around for checkups. And so we would place them in foster homes that were -- were classified as medical foster homes. And what that meant is that they had had a little special extra training, plus they were paid more than a regular foster home.
KAREN BREWSTER: Nelson implied that before their case, that program didn't exist and you helped make it happen. ELLA CRAIG: That's right. Yes. That -- that is true. That is how it finally -- we sort of got it started. And because that was a medical foster home placement. And they did have the expertise to care for his particular conditions. BILL SCHNEIDER: But it sounds like you played a pretty pioneering role in getting that started.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I -- I tried, with the tools I had and what I could get other people to do, mostly.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Good. Thank you very much.
DEB LAWTON: Could I just ask one question here?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Sure.
DEB LAWTON: And when you respond, Ella, please look at Bill.
BILL SCHNEIDER: This is Deb Lawton. DEB LAWTON: When you recounted your story of the -- the girl who had lost contact with her family and then about the difficulties associated with that, I think that really touches on a broader theme that has, you know, occurred throughout the mental health here, especially the kids going Outside, or even adults going Outside to a place like Morningside. And as a social worker, you probably had, you know, a more intimate glimpse of how that probably destroyed, you know, a lot of family relationships. And I'm wondering if maybe you could talk about that aspect of, you know, mental health care in terms of integrating family participation once, you know, care has been initiated. ELLA CRAIG: Well, I think it took -- the reunion of these families was certainly much more difficult, and I suspect that as adults, they have many more problems than probably a person who had not been estranged from their family.
I don't have any specifics in relation to that that I can recall at the moment, but I'm sure this would be true because it just stands to reason that this might happen. And I know that probably doesn't answer the question, but I can't -- DEB LAWTON: No, great and I just thought that, you know, there might be something that...
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum. One of the really nice things, though, about being a social worker here during territorial days and early days is that I've had an opportunity to see the results of some of the things that I was able to do, and most social workers never get that experience. It's so delightful. Even just this past week I was at a conference and a woman who spoke there from Atka came up to me and she said, you may not remember me, I said, well, tell me your maiden name, which she did, and I immediately remembered her. And she said, but I want you to know that my daughter went to boarding school and you helped her get there, and helped her get a scholarship to college after she finished boarding school. And she told me that she said she's living in the states now, but she has a wonderful job, is married, has two kids, and went on abount -- and she said, I know had somebody not cared about her and helped her do this, this never would have happened.
And that was just so rewarding to hear. It just really touched my heart to know that, first of all, she would remembered that long, and that I'd still be around to have her say it to me. But it was nice.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Absolutely.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum.
Ella Craig was interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on November 13, 2008 at the Mental Health Trust Authority office in Anchorage, Alaska.
Return to part one of this interview.
Click to section:
Section 1: Starting the National Association of Social Workers in Alaska, and her career after retiring from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Section 2: After retirement, getting involved with advocacy for elderly people in Alaska, and discusses her husband and family.
Section 3: The changes she's seen in mental health services, assessing her role in the development of social service programs in Alaska, and receiving an award from the National Association of Social Workers.
Section 4: Experiences working within the Native community.
Section 5: Contact with former patients, working in the Native community, and difficulty of having to make decisions about removing children from a home.
This recording has been edited.
ELLA CRAIG: But -- and one of the reasons for that was the Third World Government at that time required that you have a masters degree in social work if you were going to work for them. The Territory of Alaska didn't. And they had any number of people, in fact, the majority of people on the staff were not trained social workers. I know when we first started our chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, we couldn't get enough social workers to start a chapter. You had to have 20.
And we finally agreed that we would accept a person who had been a member of a similar organization in the states but he didn't meet the requirements for the national organization, and we had to get special permission from the national organization, and they let us have a state chapter instead of a local Anchorage chapter so we could get 20 members. This was 20 social workers for the whole state. BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, it's amazing.
ELLA CRAIG: Who were trained.
BILL SCHNEIDER: It's amazing the growth of that profession.
ELLA CRAIG: And so now I think we -- we have over 500 members.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I would -- I would guess. Well, let's get to the rest of your career.
ELLA CRAIG: Okay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So Kodiak --
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- and then back to Anchorage?
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And your responsibilities for Kodiak and the Chain. And then what? ELLA CRAIG: Well, I stayed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 34 years, I think, or 32 years, or something like that. I got some extra time because I was non-Native, and they didn't -- they reached a point when we started doing the contracting, the 638 contracting, that they wanted all of the staff to be Native. And I was the longest tenured staff member and the only non-Native member, so they offered me a really neat retirement package, so I retired. And then I --
KAREN BREWSTER: What year was that? ELLA CRAIG: That was in '86, I think. Yeah, '86, I think.
And then I went to work that same year for Charter North Hospital because at that point, they had an 80-bed hospital, and of course, JCAH says if you have a hospital that large, you have to have a social work department. So they needed somebody to set up a social work department, so they asked me to do it. So I stayed there until I was vested, which was 6 years. It was quite an experience, too.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Really?
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you describe Charter North Hospital? I'm not familiar with it. ELLA CRAIG: Charter North is -- that's the old North Star Hospital. I mean, North Star used to be Charter North.
KAREN BREWSTER: Is that a --
ELLA CRAIG: It's a psychiatric and substance abuse treatment facility. There's a children's unit.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But it was particularly difficult? ELLA CRAIG: Well, it's a for-profit organization.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh.
ELLA CRAIG: And I had not worked for a for-profit organization. And it was difficult for me to --
BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's --
ELLA CRAIG: -- just to be in that arena, I guess.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah. Uh-hum. ELLA CRAIG: I -- I enjoyed what I did, and it was a good experience for me, and I set up the social services department, had good staff and that sort of thing, but the -- it's just different working with a for-profit outfit when you've been accustomed to non-profits the majority of your life, and that sort of thing. Because I had to know whether a patient needed to be in the hospital that long, if they had insurance, you know, this kind of thing. And there was just certain things that...
BILL SCHNEIDER: You had to deal with?
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum. Section 2:
BILL SCHNEIDER: So that brings us up to --
ELLA CRAIG: Up to --
BILL SCHNEIDER: -- around 1992 or so.
ELLA CRAIG: Uh-hum. Uh-hum. And then after that, you know, I retired again, and they were going through some really difficult financial situations and so I found that my retirement consisted, I think, of 43 cents. And I also decided, okay, I'm old, I might as well be concerned about what's happening to the few seniors that we have in the community. And so I -- and as, of course, my peers were leaving me, so I started advocating to the best of my abilities through -- was concerned for senior programs that were in the process of developing. And I had an opportunity to serve on the Alaska Commission on Aging, and I chaired the Pioneer Home board for several years. So I had an opportunity to see some of the problems and some of the issues that were popping up.
And there was no reason that history should just repeat itself because I would go to meetings about concerns like, for example, transportation or medical care or something, and it would be the same thing we had discussed, you know, 50 years ago. So and -- and there's a fair amount of ageism existing in Alaska, and rightfully so, because there are not many of us, and there were fewer of us earlier.
I can recall our vacation that we took to the states with my youngster when he was four and a half years old, and of course, we went to St. Petersburg, Florida, on our tour, and he had never seen anyone with white hair, had never seen anyone on crutches or in a wheelchair. It just didn't exist in the public arena in Alaska. And he was very, very interested and curious about all of this. And asked a lot of embarrassing questions to people. It -- it really gave me cause to think in terms of really there are no seniors to speak of in Alaska. So I became fairly active in that. And then we were able to get the Geriatric Education Center at the university, so I've been working with them. They let me work as a consultant once in awhile. And I work as a volunteer there also and chair their advisory board. So it's been an interesting process. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, one thing we haven't talked about is your family. At some point along the line you got married and you had kids?
ELLA CRAIG: At some point, I did. Uh-hum. I married shortly after I moved to Anchorage, and my husband is -- was an engineer. And he was the project engineer for the Aleutian Homes in Kodiak, which was their first housing project that was built. And I met him shortly after I arrived there because as I say, everybody knew who the single guys were and who the single women were, and so I met him at a Halloween party. And we were married after I moved to Kod -- to Anchorage. And I have four children. And my oldest is a son, and he is with the Regulatory Commission for the State as the consumer representative of -- I've forgotten what the title of the position is. Anyway, he listens to complaints, you know that. I said, well, if you can't be a social worker, you know, that's pretty close. And then I have a daughter next who is a physician's assistant. She worked for several years as a health aide in the -- out in the villages.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh really.
ELLA CRAIG: And then decided she wanted to be a health -- physician assistant. So -- and then my third daughter -- I mean my second daughter is an occupational therapist. And she is employed with the school district, but currently is on leave because she has two and a half year old twin granddaughters, my only grandchildren. And so she'll go back to work next year. So... And then I have my youngest daughter -- all of these live in Anchorage, but my youngest daughter is in Las Vegas. And she is in the hospitality industry with MGM. And --
BILL SCHNEIDER: So you're well taken care of. ELLA CRAIG: Well, I'm not so sure. But she's -- they are all married and I still live in the same home that I moved into in the '50s when I -- shortly after I came to Anchorage, in the same neighborhood. So... Section 3:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, very good.
ELLA CRAIG: Good experience. Actually, a great experience because along the way I've had an opportunity to, just because I'm -- I'm here and because of the experience that I have had, I've had an opportunity to be instrumental in moving a lot of things along that were well needed. And so I've enjoyed every minute of it. BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that -- that would be my next question is what are some of the changes you've seen in the delivery of mental health services?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, see, we didn't have a mental health association. We didn't have people who were interested in the field. We sent everybody to Morningside; and then after we got Valdez [Harborview Hospital], we sent all of our kids there. And for a time we were labeling a lot of them and putting them at -- when Hope Cottages started, that started as a small facility that I helped find. The house is not too far from where I am.
And the people who started it came over to my house one night and we were talking about vacant places that might be a good place to have -- for children, and it's about two blocks over, I think, something like that. And I've seen just about all of the development of just about every community activity that -- that we have. And because of the position that I was in, was kind of a part of helping it move along. So it's been a really, really good experience for me, certainly. And as a social worker, I certainly have no complaints. The national association selected 50 social workers nationwide who have made outstanding contributions during the last century, and so they included me, and I thought that was pretty nice to put me in with all my old professors and people I had known about. They were all, you know, chair of the departments and this sort of thing, and I was one of the few practitioners who was included. So I felt that was quite an honor. So... Section 4:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Good. Good. Well, that's -- that's all the questions I have. Maybe Karen has --
KAREN BREWSTER: I always have -- I always have more questions.
You had mentioned being the only non-Native working at BIA, to go back beyond that for you, what it was like working in the Native communities when you were in Kodiak? ELLA CRAIG: Well, it was good. And I'm -- I've tried to evaluate this because I still have really, I think, good connections with the Native people in the Native communities. And a part of it I think was, number one, I'm slow. And I listen. And I don't hurry up and wait kind of thing. I had a lot of staff who were from the East Coast and New York and around big cities and what have you, they didn't do as well in the Native communities as those of us who were slower and took our time. And that sort of thing. And it worked pretty well. I had -- I was director of the Department of Social Work, but the superintendent of the agency that I worked in, I think three or four of them were all Native men. I think that -- and I do attribute a lot of it to growing up in a large family and in the South where the movement is much slower, and I think we are sometimes a little more hospitable to people and we understand that you go in, you recognize authority, and you drink your coffee, and you do all of these things that work out really well. And I -- oh, I loved to visit the villages. I had a great time. They had a disaster, they had an earthquake up in Mentasta a few years ago, and I was sent up there as a Red Cross disaster worker. And it was just great to renew acquaintances with all the people that I had worked with up there during the time that I was, you know, working in that area. So -- and I know a lot of it is the easy name, and that I was, you know, the BIA worker sort of thing, but I think a lot of it, too, is because the people know that I really do care about them and remember about them. And I have generations of them, people that -- daughters of people that I worked with or who were clients who have married and live in the states, and when they come back to Anchorage, they bring their kids by to see me. Well, they will look in the phone book, if they find my name, they will call me, you know, this kind of thing. Section 5:
And that I had one really, really neat youngster that she was one of the first teenagers that I ever had to find a placement for Outside. And she had to go to a facility down in Utah for just about everything you could think of. But I was the only person that was ever consistent in her life. I mean, her parents were dead and others were dead, what have you. And when my husband died, she saw it in the paper and she called me. And she was in the -- evidently her early 30s at this point, but she called me to see if I was okay. And she said, as she ended her conversation, she said, well, you took care of me, I just want to be sure you're all right now. And I thought, well, what a neat thing. Few social workers ever get to see successful experiences from their work. And -- or their relationships because that's really the only tool that we have, relationships. And I felt so privileged that so many of them still do that. And just recently, one of the people, Native people I had worked with, her mother died, and she called me the morning after her death and she said I just wanted you to know. And she said, will you please come to the funeral? And I said, well, of course, I would, if you'd like for me to be there. And so I did. But it's -- it's that kind of thing, I think, that makes me comfortable in the Native community. And I feel that with the experiences that I'm having now with various committees and of boards and this sort of thing, I can bring some of the Native perspective and culture to their attention of the people who need to know about it and to explore it further. So I can sort of do that from my country experience. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, because you were talking before about some of the criticism that was made against social worker -- workers and taking people out of their community.
ELLA CRAIG: Right. Uh-hum.
KAREN BREWSTER: And but how you, being part of those communities, if you had difficult moments with that kind of thing, of having to be responsible for sending some of their people away, and what that was like. ELLA CRAIG: It was very difficult because it was always difficult for me to see someone have to leave home because your parents are your parents regardless of their problems or regardless of your problems. And there is a relationship and -- a closeness there that can't be substituted. It's very difficult. I mean, it is substituted, certainly, but not at the same intensity that you have with the parent-child relationship. It's a very different kind of relationship.
And I had a youngster once tell me, he said, I know my mother and father drink too much and they could be called alcoholics. He said, but they are still my parents. And he says, I love them just the same. So I think that kind of speaks for how they see their parents if they are difficult to be with. And I certainly have witnessed that in so many relationships, and to take children from that kind of situation is difficult.
KAREN BREWSTER: Especially when you know the families and you're living in that community, I think that would be very difficult. ELLA CRAIG: It's very difficult. Uh-hum. So...
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, thank you very much. There's certainly lots more that we could go into, but I think we -- we better close this session and --
KAREN BREWSTER: Unless there's something else that's in your head that we haven't brought out yet.
ELLA CRAIG: Oh, no. Oh, no. I think I've probably talked too much and it's been kind of rambling and what have you.
BILL SCHNEIDER: No. It's been good.
KAREN BREWSTER: No. Not at all. It's been wonderful. Okay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yes.
Ella Craig was interviewed by Bill Schneider and Karen Brewster on November 13, 2008 at the Mental Health Trust Authority office in Anchorage, Alaska. She discusses arriving in Kodiak in 1953 from Atlanta, Georgia and her many years as a social worker for Kodiak, the Aleutian Islands, and in Anchorage. Ella assisted patients coming to and from Morningside Hospital in Oregon, and reflects on the quality of services provided to the mentally ill both at Morningside and in rural Alaska. She also discusses the changes she has seen in the delivery of mental health services over her long career, and what it was like working with the Native community. At age 89, Ella continues to serve the community. She helped start the National Association of Social Workers chapter in Alaska, she advocates for the elderly and was on the Alaska Commission on Aging, and volunteers with the Geriatric Education Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Part two of this interview.Ella was also interviewed by Karen Brewster and Bill Schneider with videography by Deborah Lawton and Aaron Elterman on June 10, 2009.
Click to section:
Section 1: Her personal history and educational background.
Section 2: Working at military hospitals during World War II.
Section 3: Working for the Red Cross Disaster Service, and learning about a job opportunity in Alaska with new federal social services programs.
Section 4: Traveling from Georgia to Alaska to begin her new social work job in Kodiak.
Section 5: Arriving in Kodiak from Atlanta, Georgia not being properly prepared for the weather and living conditions.
Section 6: Use of blue tickets to remove nuisance people from a community, her first housing in Kodiak, and visiting communities on Kodiak and along the chain of Aleutian Islands.
Section 7: Social and mental health issues a social worker faced in the villages, and the difficult task of having to remove children from their family homes.
Section 8: Lack of understanding of mental health issues in Alaska, Morningside Hospital being the only available treatment option, and her experiences escorting patients to Morningside.
Section 9: Effects of removing the mentally ill, especially children, from communities and placing them at the Alaska Native Hospital in Anchorage and Morningside Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
Section 10: The low return rate of Morningside patients back to their communities, and a story from Kodiak about a woman using her discharge papers to prove she was cured.
Section 11: Lack of programs for patients returning from Morningside Hospital, and her involvement with escorting and visiting patients there.
Section 12: Dropping children off at Morningside and the transition from home to the hospital.
Section 13: Abuse of power when selecting people to be sent out to Morningside Hospital, and how patient releases were handled.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Today is November 13th, 2008, and I'm Bill Schneider. Karen Brewster is here, too.
We have the pleasure of doing an interview this morning -- or this afternoon with Ella H. Craig. And so thank you, Ella, for taking the time to do this.
What I'd like to do is start with your early history. Tell us about your parents and where you grew up, and a little bit about your background. ELLA CRAIG: Well, I grew up in Gates County in North Carolina, which is just below the Virginia border and over to the east about 100 miles from the coast. And our farm, it was on a -- raised on a farm, and it bordered on the Great Dismal Swamp. So my early childhood was fantastic. I had two brothers and two sisters, one of each older and one of each younger, so I'm the middle child. And I stayed on the farm through high school and was graduated from high school at 15. And entered college the next year at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and received my bachelors degree there. And immediately went into graduate school at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
And by this time, it was -- let me see. I graduated in '39, and so 1941. So I began work at the Department of Public Welfare in Durham, North Carolina. And I went into social work because at that particular time, the options were pretty limited. And in our county, we had a county welfare director, but she was getting along in age, and so I was encouraged from a community standpoint and from my family's standpoint to go into social work so that I could be the county welfare director. You know, one person. So... But it -- it was an interesting experience because I really liked the field, too, because I knew I didn't want to be a school teacher, and I didn't want to be a secretary or a nurse, and those were the only options that were open to women at that particular era. Section 2:
But then the war years came along, and so people started thinking about what they were going to do during that period of time.
Well, I had been trained as a -- I had done my field placement at Duke University Hospital, so I had had a semester in medical social work and also a semester in psychiatric social work. So the -- with the war years coming, the American Red Cross recruited me to work in military hospitals. So -- and I'm sure it was because of my background, field in medical and psychiatric social work.
So, of course, I was delighted to go from public welfare to that exciting field at that time, and at my age, I thought that would be great. So I was assigned to Camp Blanding Hospital at Camp Blanding, Florida. And this was a large military base, Army base. And I was there for, oh, I don't know exactly how long, maybe a couple, three years, and then I was transferred to the Boca Raton Air Force Hospital. And I was there for a bit. And I kept trying to receive an appointment overseas, but they had an age limit, and I wasn't quite old enough yet to go. But I finally convinced them to let me go anyway because I had had a great deal of experience by then, comparatively speaking, in the military hospitals. So they transferred me out to Camp Roberts, California, and I was there for a bit. And then I was transferred to the Philippines and I was there for, oh, a little over a year, I guess, before the war ended. And just before it ended, we started -- they started transferring me again, and you know, did the Okinawa thing, and then on up, and went into Japan with the occupation troops. So one of the few females permitted to do this. So... And then, once I got into Japan, since war was over at that time, I was sent down to Sasebo, Japan, which is on the southern tip of the island. And I was there with -- attached to the Second Marine Division, and worked in a Navy field hospital for, oh, a little over a year, I guess. And then we were kind of -- everybody was coming home and it was time to come home and everything was over, so I came back to -- and technically, we kind of wrote our own orders.
Another friend of mine who was with me on my staff, and we went down to Yokohama and joined up with the Navy and kind of hitchhiked back to Hawaii, stopping at every single little island. Johnson Island, you know, all those little tiny spots. And since we were the -- this was a military craft, of course, and Red Cross workers were -- you know, we were the bottom of the hierarchy, so we didn't get the good seats on the military planes, so I have ridden on just about every kind you can think of. Section 3:
Then when I went -- came back to the states, I went to work at Camp Lejeune Military Naval Hospital and worked there for a bit, and decided I'd better go finish my master's degree. I had all my caseload -- course work and had done the thesis, but my thesis had never been approved because I took off. And at that time, you had to be in residence at the university for two years -- I mean, two months, I'm sorry, before you received your masters. But I was working and I couldn't take two months off, so it took me awhile to get my two months that I could do that.
And in the meantime, I left the naval hospital and accepted a position with Disaster Service with the Red Cross. And I was on their national disaster staff for -- until I came to Alaska.
And I worked just about every disaster that you can think of in terms of hurricanes and tornadoes and fires and plane wrecks, train wrecks, and that sort of thing, all over the United States, although I had responsibility for the eight southeastern states and was stationed in Atlanta at that time. And that was when I got a call from my friend who had worked with me in Disaster Service and had come to Alaska a year before I had -- I did. And she called and asked me if I would like to come up, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was setting up a social services program to be run by social workers. They had had a program previously, but it was administered by school teachers primarily, and they were the people throughout the state who were taking care of the social services needs of the Native people.
And this was during -- this -- 19 -- early 1953, and that was during the tuberculosis epidemic. And that was the reason they were expanding the services and trying to provide more care for -- because the territory at that time did not provide social services to Native people. That was a federal -- I mean, a -- it was a whole different department's responsibility. And the Interior Department had responsibility for that.
So we had to set up a dual social services department. Section 4:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, we're back on, and you were telling us about coming to Kodiak.
ELLA CRAIG: Yes. Well, it -- when my friend asked if I would come, I told her that I would be able to come as quickly as I finished the assignment that I was on. I was on a flood disaster in Columbia -- Columbus, Georgia, so I closed that job out, and she had sent me a Government Transportation Request. GTR.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh-hum. ELLA CRAIG: I had never made an application, just a telephone call to her, but I got this GTR to take a train from Atlanta to Seattle. And as I recall, this took seven days because the trains at that time were really crowded because a lot of service people were going back and forth and being discharged and this sort of thing. And it was -- I began to wonder what I was getting into and whether I had made the right decision. And whether I should have listened to my parents and stayed home. But I -- I did get to Seattle, and then I was met there by a representative of the Bureau [of Indian Affairs], and he took me to the airport in Seattle and I got on another plane and went to Juneau. And the airports and the planes, of course, in those days were not anywhere near what they are today. And so I got to Juneau and I stayed there about, oh, it must have been six weeks or maybe a little more, just for training orientation, getting to know the people, and sort of discussing what I was going to be doing, this kind of thing. Section 5:
Then they sent me off to Kodiak. And as I mentioned earlier, when she had called me, she just assumed I had a lot more information about Alaska than I did. I knew it was cold and I knew it rained, and particularly rained a lot in Juneau and a lot in Kodiak. Those two things I knew. But for a person who had, at that time, never had a pair of slacks, never had a pair of jeans -- I'll take it back. I did have slacks when I was with the Army -- I mean, the Air Force and the Army, but they were part of my uniform. They were not my clothes, so to speak.
So I arrived in Kodiak. But before I went to Kodiak, I went to my favorite department stores in Atlanta and I got myself outfitted in what I thought would be appropriate dress for a businesswoman in a small town. And I remember so well that I got a beautiful raincoat, and it was black on the outside and bright yellow on the inside. Not reversible, but you know, you could see all this bright yellow. And I had an umbrella that matched. Little did I know at that time that no one in Kodiak uses an umbrella. So anyway, I learned the hard way. And I was staying with the Public Health nurse in Kodiak, they had one at that particular time. And we had to walk -- and I had a little room in her office, the Public Health building, and we had to walk about seven and a half blocks to get to her office. So one morning it was raining, and so I wandered down these seven and a half blocks in my raincoat and my umbrella, and it was -- the wind was such that, you know, first of all, the umbrella just goes scoop, you know, and so I have no umbrella. Then I go, scrunch up and trying to get...
And then I found out years and years later that people in town thought this was just absolutely hilarious that anybody, number one, would have an umbrella in Kodiak. And so people would -- the bars stayed open all night back then, and there was 17 bars that you had to pass on those seven blocks to get to the office.
So it was a small enough town that everybody knew anybody who was new in town, you know, so nobody mentioned anything to me to change my behavior and activities, because they had board streets, you know. And in Atlanta, we wore very high heels. And so my heels would get stuck in the -- in the cracks.
And so by this I knew that we were being observed by a lot of people. And I would try to get my, you know, heel from the sidewalk, but that didn't work very well. So I had some interesting experiences. Of course, I met my husband in Kodiak, so I learned a lot of the feelings from the community from him afterwards. So that's why I mention that.
But Kodiak was a really unique experience because they had, first of all, had never had a social worker there. So they weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do. And they have a lot of need for a social worker because the alcoholism was such a great factor, and of course, hand in hand, a lot of mental health problems also. Section 6:
But the city had a mayor and they had a marshal, the U.S. Marshal was the police force, so to speak. They had one -- I think one policeman, but the U.S. Marshal had the authority because it was still a territory back in those days.
And he absolutely loved picking people up. And whether anybody admits it a lot up in Alaska now, we used a lot of blue tickets. KAREN BREWSTER: What are blue tickets?
ELLA CRAIG: Blue tickets, if a person is a nuisance in the community and you don't want them to stay, you give them a ticket, a one-way ticket out of town. So there was a lot of that in Alaska.
I've heard a lot of people say they don't remember anything about this and don't know about it, but they didn't live around the U.S. Marshal that I knew because there was a lot of that. And they just -- from community to community. And then, of course, they would make trouble there and they would give them a ticket back. So they weren't always out.
But the community had found me -- the mayor had found me a place to live. And I moved into that place maybe about a month after I was in Kodiak. And it was a one-room board and batten, unpainted facility, with a wood block, a stump for the doorstep in. Which was very difficult to maneuver with my high heels.
But anyway, it had a light bulb on top and a window box for the refrigerator. And you kept all of your cold things out in the window box. And then it had an oil stove for heat and cooking. And the shower had been built onto the house out of tin. It was just a little box that they had kind of built on and had a spigot up top and that was the shower.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Outside?
ELLA CRAIG: Outside. But they had cut a hole in the wall and you could go into it from the inside. But that was where I lived for about a year. Well, maybe not quite a year, maybe nine months. But it was very expensive, comparatively speaking, because housing was absolutely very difficult to find. And until they built some housing projects there, it was very difficult for anyone to find a place to live. So... BILL SCHNEIDER: And how about the work? How about the work?
ELLA CRAIG: The work? Well, as soon as people found out I was there, of course, and I was a social worker, first of all, there was a curiosity, so you had an opportunity to explain to people what you did.
And then the Public Health nurse, and there was one other nurse in town who was retired and just kind of did everything for everybody, a wonderful person, and the nurses at the hospital. So they had a little understanding of what a nurse -- I mean, a social worker did.
And we worked very closely with the Public Health nurses and they would refer people to us that needed that. And the Public Health nurses made home visits and village visits and that sort of thing. And of course, I not only had the Village of Kodiak as my assignment, I had all of the islands and the Aleutian Chain. So -- and I had to visit a certain number of times per year. And that was by float plane or by mail boat or the little planes. So I did a lot of flying. BILL SCHNEIDER: In difficult weather?
ELLA CRAIG: In very difficult weather. And made several trips up and down the Chain on the mail boat, which was another whole experience.
I mean, they also had a health boat and I used that some, but it was a health boat for the whole area, so that didn't come into Kodiak that often, but when it did, I would sometimes catch a ride up to some of the villages. But it took awhile for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, apparently, to figure out that to get to the Aleutian Chain on a regularly scheduled flight of Reeve Airlines, I had to come from Kodiak to Anchorage and then go. Well, that was pretty expensive as well as time consuming. So they decided that I needed to be stationed in Anchorage and we could well combine the two areas. So that was why I left Kodiak because the -- they combined the two offices then. But – Section 7:
BILL SCHNEIDER: What were some of the issues you addressed?
ELLA CRAIG: The issues primarily at that time were family problems, primarily, but the main problem that initially took most of my time was the -- everybody had tuberculosis, and they needed to be hospitalized. And this was not just the Native population, the non-Native population was also afflicted. And when they were -- when the parents were hospitalized, all of the adults and the relatives who could care for all of the children were also hospitalized. So we had to find homes and places for the children to go, the ones who were still not needing hospitalization. So much of my time was spent in child welfare issues trying to find homes for kids, picking kids up and placing them, taking care of the things in the village; when you took kids from the village, explaining why. And sometimes -- there was one kid, sometimes -- I think the largest family I ever placed, the mother and father both had tuberculosis, grandparents had tuberculosis, and all the relatives in the village had tuberculosis. There were 14 children, one had tuberculosis, so there were 13 children that we had to find homes for. Now, there were a lot of missions and institutions for children, but I had some problems with a lot of those because I was a federal employee, and religion was a part of their program. And if you're paying for their care in a facility, you can't force people to pray or to participate or to become a part of your denomination. And this was a very difficult thing because while we had a number of those in Alaska, they were all religiously associated.
So we tried to depend first on relatives, which you always do, but then to find Native foster homes, which was practically impossible because the high incidence of tuberculosis. So then we had to reach out and place some in non-Native homes. But when there was a child, say, on the Aleutian Chain, you couldn't have a youngster fly by themselves, so either I had to find an escort for them or I had to get them myself. So I spent a lot of time escorting kids. And which was not always easy, particularly in some of the weather conditions we had. BILL SCHNEIDER: It must have been very hard on the kids, too.
ELLA CRAIG: Oh, it was terrible on the kids. It was very, very difficult for the kids.
BILL SCHNEIDER: A tragic period.
ELLA CRAIG: Because I think a lot of people have criticized the agencies a great deal for, quotes, taking the children out of the village, but you have to have been there and you have to know what the circumstances were at that time, and to know that was the absolute last choice, and it wasn't done that way, but so many people remember it as that. And sometimes it's real difficult to listen to some of the conversations of some of the people who are now maybe 40 and 50 and what have you, and even some of their remembrances as a child.
Because communication was very difficult. They didn't have telephones, maybe they had one telephone in the villages. And you had to go through so many people to get a message to people. But it -- it wasn't like you go in and sweep up the kids and take them out. It didn't happen that way. But most people think it does.
But it was -- it was a difficult time for not only the children but for the families because in the process of all of this, the first Public Health Service Hospital was being built in Anchorage over on Third Street. And this was before we had a Public Health Service in Alaska. We had nurses but we didn't have the administrative hierarchy.
And that hospital was built by the Bureau of Indian Affairs initially, the Public Health Service Hospital as we know it.
So after I came to Kodiak -- I mean, to Anchorage from Kodiak, I spent a fair amount of time working there, as well as with the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] because we were all working with the same patients, the same cliental. Section 8:
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. Well, then, let's -- let's move to some of the mental health issues that you faced.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, first of all, I think the majority of officials didn't recognize mental health problems, or mental health as an issue in any way, because we had very little in the way of organizations who were concerned with mental health. All this, of course, was before we had the first psychiatrist in Alaska. And then he was a man of vision, and very smart, and he had two social workers on his staff from almost the beginning, which was very helpful to those of us who were in the helping field. And as you found a person that you knew was a danger to themselves or to someone else, the only place they could receive any treatment, of course, was Morningside.
And that was a judicial procedure. And the person had to appear before a judge who declared them incompetent to manage their own affairs, regardless of their age or what have you. And sometimes these -- I can remember one procedure that was held in jail, and the judge went down to jail and talked to the young man and said, yeah, he needs to go to Morningside. I think he was 14. And we just -- you knew what was going to happen.
And they did have a beautiful facility and they had good care, but they were in Oregon. They weren't near any of their parents or any other people except some people that might come down from Alaska.
So it was -- it was difficult until we got a few people, a few agency people and then a few community people who were concerned about mental health issues, primarily I think because they had family members who needed care and weren't getting the kind of care that they knew they needed. So... BILL SCHNEIDER: I think you had mentioned that you escorted some people to Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: Oh, yes. Uh-huh. Frequently. I went down with them, and it was always an interesting experience.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Why is that?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I had one young man that he really didn't need to be in Morningside, he could have done very well in a small facility, in a group home or what have you, but there was no alternative for him. So we go down, and he was very loud talking and very -- just loved to visit with you and things. So we were sitting there, and so I said to him, I said, "Now, you -- you stay right here, I am going to go back to the back for a minute."
And he said, "Well, can I go with you?" And I said, "No, you have to stay here." And finally I said to him, "I am going to the bathroom." And so in this loud voice on this plane full of people, he says, "Mrs. Craig, you've got to go pee?"
So there was just dead silence on the plane as you can well imagine. And I mean, that was just kind of the funnier side, but it was one of the kinds of things that you would put up with as you -- and then you never knew exactly what was going to happen, regardless of where you might be. Section 9:
BILL SCHNEIDER: How did this -- how did this play out in terms of the patients? Can you describe how they dealt with leaving their community and how the communities dealt with it.
ELLA CRAIG: The communities were very protective of their own until they absolutely got to the point that the teachers in the schools felt that they couldn't stay there any longer. I honestly believe the parents would have cared for them to the best of their ability regardless, but the teachers were concerned about it primarily. And they would convince -- be the first people to convince the parents or the community that they needed to seek help somewhere else. But there was sort of a double thing there because first of all, they wanted them away from the community because they were concerned about the danger to other people. But -- and they were truly seeking help for them also.
But parents, it was very difficult for the parents to understand. I mean, hospital they understood. And they didn't understand why they had to leave Alaska, particularly once they got the Native Hospital. Why can't they stay there? Or why can't they go there. It was very difficult. And you had to spend -- you couldn't just go in on a plane and pick them up and leave, that kind of thing, you had to spend a lot of time talking with them and having them understand what was going to happen. And the worst part about it was sometimes the kids were brought into the hospital and the person who would bring them in would not -- they would know them by a different name, and they would sometimes be admitted to the hospital without an appropriate name or their real name. And this was particularly true of Eskimos because they had a different way of -- they sometimes used the first name, last name, reverse it. And so you would call -- the parents might contact the hospital, or ask somebody to contact the hospital to see how the kid was doing, and the hospital administration would say, there's nobody here by that name. So the parent would not know what had ever happened to their kid. And I can remember only one instant, but this is a true story and did happen. A child was in the hospital for years and years and years under a different name than her own and was told that she was no longer there. Nobody knew where she was. And this was not just a few years, this was a lot of years. And they finally discovered that -- what her real name was, and what have you. And then it was when this happened, and we found out about it, we tried to -- "we" being the Bureau of Indian Affairs social workers, we tried to reunite this youngster with their family, and it couldn't happen. I mean, she didn't know who they were and they didn't know who she was. And this was a really, really tragic situation. And the only way we found out about it and what her name was because someone decided they wanted to adopt this child.
BILL SCHNEIDER: From Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: No, this one was at -- just at the hospital.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, I see.
ELLA CRAIG: She hadn't been sent to Morningside. And they wanted to adopt her. And they tried to adopt her and couldn't find a birth certificate. And then we did some checking with the priest and various and sundry people, and the memories came back as to who she really was and why she was in the hospital, and her poor parents had been just like every time they had a chance inquiring about how she was, and they were told she wasn't there. And it was a very -- BILL SCHNEIDER: How did that -- how did parents handle, though, their children going to Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: They were accepting of it, not emotionally, I'm sure, but they gave lip service to accepting it because they were convinced by the authorities that this was the appropriate procedure for them. BILL SCHNEIDER: And how often did they have any contact at all with them?
ELLA CRAIG: They didn't until they were ready to come home.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And how often did they come home?
ELLA CRAIG: They didn't come home for visits at all, only when they were discharged. As being well, able to come home. BILL SCHNEIDER: And -- and what was the record of healing and coming home?
ELLA CRAIG: Not that great because the adjustment after a period of time was not good.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Adjustment to Oregon?
ELLA CRAIG: To the -- to the -- from Oregon back to the village. And without any supervision or continued treatment or follow-up, maybe once a year that the Public Health nurse could provide, even medication management or anything of that sort couldn't be done that well. So the adjustment was really not that good. Section 10:
BILL SCHNEIDER: One of the themes that we've heard before was that when people went to Morningside, that most never came back.
ELLA CRAIG: Very few came back. Very few. And if they did, they were labeled so -- because this was one of the things they loved to do was to label people, give them a diagnosis and that was it for the rest of their life, kind of thing. BILL SCHNEIDER: And when people came back, then they had to justify that they were healed.
ELLA CRAIG: Well, uh-hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Do you have some cases of that?
ELLA CRAIG: I had -- I think I mentioned to Karen the one down in Kodiak, the lady that was sent to Morningside primarily because -- I mean, she had a problem with alcohol and that was it. And of course, the treatment for alcoholism was unheard of at that particular time, and so we didn't talk about it or think about it.
But she was kind of a nuisance in the community, and the marshal didn't care for her. So he decided she was going to Morningside. And it was difficult to get a judge, commissioner, what have you, to declare her incompetent and send her to Morningside. So I -- she had really neat kids and I really liked her very much. I spent a lot of time with her.
So we went in the grocery store one night down in Kodiak, and she had been home maybe a week or so, and was greeting people and was doing fine. And she was standing in the grocery line waiting to be checked out and she started talking loudly. Well, you would because everybody's chattering at the same time, and you know, grocery store and what have you.
And so the owner of the store was managing the cash register, and so he yelled at her to be quiet. And she says, "What do you mean, be quiet?" She said, "I'm just talking."
And so then he started talking to her, and said, "Oh, well, you're crazy anyway, you know, so what can I expect." And she really reacted and she says, "I'm not crazy." She said, "I have papers to prove it. Do you?" And she pulled out her discharge letter from the hospital and read it to him.
And in the letter there was something about being cured and ready to return home, I've forgotten how it was worded at the moment, but it very distinctly said what she thought it said. And he was absolutely livid. He was furious with her. So from a community standpoint, he didn't do well.
BILL SCHNEIDER: From a community standpoint?
ELLA CRAIG: He didn't do very well. She got the sympathy, from the community's standpoint.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh, that's good. Section 11:
What sort of programs were in place when people came back?
ELLA CRAIG: Back in those days, none. Just whatever follow-up the Public Health nurse for the area or social worker could serve. We usually were notified that they were returning, and we would make an effort to contact them and offer services if they needed to come in and talk with us and that sort of thing, but that was a limited number of people, really. Because the majority, as you say, didn't come back. BILL SCHNEIDER: Were there cases where members of the community went down to visit there?
ELLA CRAIG: I think some of their parents did. The Native people, of course, most didn't. I can't remember any of the people that I knew who were there having anyone visit them, except me. BILL SCHNEIDER: And you would visit them when you would be doing --
ELLA CRAIG: When I was -- when I would bring someone else down, I would always visit everybody from Alaska. And then when I was in the area for any other reason, some of my people that I had known, youngsters, teenagers primarily, I would go by and see them because I thought that was important. Yeah. BILL SCHNEIDER: And they remembered you and --
ELLA CRAIG: I beg your pardon?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Did they remember you?
ELLA CRAIG: Oh, yeah. Uh-hum. Well, I think primarily because I was a constant in their life. Most of your professional workers would come and stay a year or stay two years and then they were gone, but I came and stayed. And so that made a difference to people. And the other thing is that I had a short name, and they could remember Ella Craig. I mean, it was one word, as far as they were concerned. And the adults would call me Ella Craig. The children, of course, were all -- it was always Mrs. Craig, and until we got to the point that everybody called everybody, you know, by their first name. But it was some interesting times. BILL SCHNEIDER: What can you tell us based on your observations of those trips about the care at Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: I had visited and worked in some facilities in the states during some of my disaster experience and otherwise, so I was somewhat familiar with the kind of services that were offered in institutional settings. And I would say that Morningside was easily comparable to anything I had seen previously, so I would have to assume that the care was good at that particular time.
And that -- and certainly I never talked with anyone who was there, of the youngsters particularly, the younger group, that wasn't perfectly okay with being there. And I mean, you know, the usual things, the food, the people, and what have you, but they would rather be in Alaska. Those were the kinds of comments that you would get. BILL SCHNEIDER: What sort of social service support did those youngsters have from Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: They had support staff. I don't know if they called them aides or if they actually had -- I know in later years they had social workers, but I don't recall when I took my first youngster down whether they had a social worker or not. But I know they had support staff and aides and this sort of bit. Section 12:
BILL SCHNEIDER: And then just a very basic question. Were there certain steps that you made with a youngster when you dropped them off? Did you stay with them for a day or two or how did you make that transition as a social worker?
ELLA CRAIG: No. I would be met by -- if they had a social worker, by a social worker usually, or a member of the staff, a nurse in whose unit it was going to be, or sometimes the doctors. And we would spend time with the patient and myself, or I would spend time with the employee, usually both. But it wasn't a long period of time.
And I didn't spend as much time as one would hope that a family member or someone who is making a transition as we know it today would spend. No. It was very hurried. KAREN BREWSTER: So was it a few hours? Was it a day?
ELLA CRAIG: I'd say a couple of hours. Uh-hum. Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Before we go on to the rest of your career, Karen, do you want to ask any more questions about this period?
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, we've been talking about a lot about the children and taking the children to Morningside. Did you have experience with adults at Morningside?
ELLA CRAIG: Well, I took my favorite person in Kodiak there in town. And I was involved in placement of several of the adults, but I don't recall -- I think she was the only adult that I actually escorted down. I can't recall others.
KAREN BREWSTER: That leads to my follow-up, which is about the placement. So you were involved with recommending adults and children to be taken to Morningside? ELLA CRAIG: I was a part of a group that would do that. Uh-hum. Yes.
KAREN BREWSTER: If you could talk a little bit about what that process was.
ELLA CRAIG: It was -- usually they were referred by -- if they had been hospitalized, it would be the doctor or staff at the hospital. And otherwise, it would be Public Health nurse in the field or the school teachers or a minister or a nun, or just the recognized leaders in the community. Once in awhile we would get information from the administration of the villages. I mean, the council presidents and this sort of thing, but not very often. And a lot of the time we were able to resolve that without moving anybody from the village. Because just going out and talking with them and assessing the whole situation, you would know that it wasn't a person from -- that needed to go to Morningside. But we had an awful lot of missionaries that were in the various areas, and they would make a lot of recommendations, of course, that had to be evaluated. You did a regular assessment and then asked for a psychiatric evaluation once we got a psychiatrist.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But that was a while coming?
ELLA CRAIG: That was quite awhile coming. Yes. Section 13:
BILL SCHNEIDER: What about abuse of power in the community? As with respect to Morningside and sending people out.
ELLA CRAIG: I think probably, without question, there was abuse of power because I think people like our marshal did down in Kodiak, I think people used Morningside as a place to send -- send an undesirable person, and an undesirable person doesn't necessarily have to be mentally ill to a lot of people. And that was what I saw happening a lot in Kodiak. KAREN BREWSTER: Was there any way -- for that case, somebody who was labeled undesirable or maybe was not in need of actually being in Morningside, was there a way for them to get themselves out and returning?
ELLA CRAIG: They didn't -- I mean Morningside, in my opinion, in what experience I had, was reasonably good about moving them through the system and not keeping them unnecessarily long periods of time. But those were just the ones that I knew about.
And I know there have been others that just kind of stayed and, you know. And maybe they didn't have a place to come back to or maybe they didn't have contacts that could be made to plan for them to come back. Because, you see, you were involved in the whole bit of transportation and where they are going to stay and when they are traveling. BILL SCHNEIDER: So how would that be handled in the early years? If somebody -- if Morningside determined that somebody was healthy enough to return home, where would the money come for their travel and how would that be initiated?
ELLA CRAIG: If there were people that we had been involved with sending, they first, of course, contacted the health authorities, which was the Public Health nurse. If they were Native, they would usually contact me and say they needed to come back and -- or were ready to come back, and we would authorize the transportation for them.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Oh.
ELLA CRAIG: This was for Native people. And I assume the Territory did the same for the non-Natives who were there.
BILL SCHNEIDER: We're going to stop for a minute and change the tape and then we'll get on to the rest of your career.