Susan La Flesche - Omaha

By Julia White
Scattered throughout history, there are entire Native families who seemed to be touched by greatness. The La Flesche family was one of those. Iron Eyes was the last Omaha chief and his belief was that the white man was here to stay and the only way for his people to survive was to learn the white ways, be properly educated, and learn to balance Native ways with the white ways. His children went on to become authors, politicians, orators, anthropologists -- and Susan, who distinguished herself by becoming the first Native American woman ever to earn a medical degree and work as a practicing M.D.

After completing her studies and earning her degree, Susan returned to Nebraska as a government physician. She rode on horseback from reservation to reservation, from family to family, treating the sick. It is said that, by the time of her death, she had treated every member of the Omaha Nation.

After a time, she married and settled in Bancroft, Nebraska where she had a private practice treating both Native and white patients. She adopted Christianity, and became a missionary of the Omaha Blackbird Hills Presbyterian Church. She moved to the newly established town of Walthill and founded a hospital there.

Susan went on to be a leading citizen of Walthill, and headed a delegation to Washington, D.C. to fight against the sale of liquor in Nebraska. She was so successful in her endeavors that a covenant was placed in land sale documents of that time prohibiting the possession of liquor on any land purchased from the Omaha.

Susan died at 50, and is buried in Bancroft, Nebraska.

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