TB Sanatoriums

(Note: The following section makes use of the term Aboriginal rather than Indigenous to describe the populations involved. This terminology reflects the preference of the section’s author, and the Pulling Together group respects that preference. For a fuller discussion of terms used to reference First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, please see ‘Some Words on Terminology,’ section 1, chapter 2).1

Aboriginal peoples in Manitoba have a long history with tuberculosis (TB). This disease is directly linked to poverty, which is why it was, and continues to be, problematic for Aboriginal Peoples. For instance, many lived in overcrowded, dilapidated homes, could not afford to purchase nutritious foods, did not have access to clean safe drinking water, and were denied healthcare. In the early 1900s, sanatoriums were built to isolate and treat those suffering from the disease because no effective medications were available. When sanatoriums opened, only members of the mainstream population were admitted, leaving Aboriginal Peoples few options in terms of accessing care. In the mid-1940s, medications to treat TB were discovered and infection rates began to drop among the mainstream population. However, TB remained problematic for Aboriginal peoples and in order to protect the health of society, sanatorium care was finally offered to them.  Although they were offered care, the TB situation among the Aboriginal population persisted well into the 1960s; and it remains a health concern for Aboriginal Peoples today.

Sanatoriums, which were large, intimidating colonial institutions, were often far from patients’ homes, separating them from their loved ones, communities, cultures, and lands.  Sanatorium care was, in many ways, quite similar to residential schools and those receiving care were separated from their families and communities, expected to speak English, adopt Christianity, were segregated from society and the opposite sex, and some were victims of abuse. One primary difference between residential schools and sanatoriums was students would eventually age out; whereas, patients had no idea if their stay would be months or years or if they would succumb to TB. For many, being institutionalized for an indeterminate amount of time while battling a deadly disease caused a great deal of trauma for them and their families.


  1. ‘Some Words on Terminology,’ Section 1 (https://pressbooks.openedmb.ca/pullingtogethermanitoba/chapter/some-words-on-terminology/)


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Pulling Together: Manitoba Foundations Guide (Brandon Edition) Copyright © by Manitoba Foundations Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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