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Native Women In History:

Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte


Susan LaFlesche was the daughter of Omaha chief Joseph LaFlesche (Iron Eyes). She was born in 1865 on the Omaha reservation in Nebraska and attended school there until she was 14. She then attended the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey for three years, worked at the Mission School on the Omaha Reservation for two years, and then went to school in Virginia for two years. The Women's National Indian Association then provided financial aid for Susan to attend the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia. She graduated at the top of her class and became the first Native American woman physician.

Dr. LaFlesche returned to the Omaha Reservation and worked as the physician for the government school. Widespread cholera, dysentery, and influenza were some of the diseases Dr. LaFlesche had to treat on the reservation.

In 1894 Dr. LaFlesche married Henry Picotte. She left her job at the government school on the reservation and moved to Bancroft, Nebraska where she started a private practice treating Native and non-Native patients.

After her husband died in 1905, Dr. Picotte moved to the community of Walthill, which is near the middle of the Omaha reservation in Thurston County, Nebraska. She helped found the Thurston County Medical Association and became the county health officer and a member of the State Medical Association. She lobbied for better public health laws and worked to fight alcoholism on the Omaha reservation.

Dr. Picotte also went on the lecture circuit in the United States and Europe with her sister Suzette to inform the public about the problems faced by Indian people. She pointed out that the Omaha's economy was destroyed by the slaughter of the buffalo, and she believed this was the root of many of the Omaha's problems. She also campaigned against the trust system, in which tribal property was held in trust by the federal government, because she believed it was detrimental to Indian self determination.

In 1912 Dr. Picotte established a hospital in Walthill. The hospital was named in her honor after she died in 1915. The building now houses the Susan LaFlesche Picotte Center, which commemorates her life and work.


  • Women In American Indian Society,by Rayna Green

Other books about Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte :

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More articles about Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte:

The Incredible Legacy of Susan La Flesche, the First Native American to Earn a Medical Degree - Smithsonian.com

Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte - US National Institutes of Health

Susan La Flesche Picotte, first Native American doctor, turned down fame but earned place in history - Omaha World Herald


Native Women In History