Thursday, 14 January 2016

Susan Le Flesche Picotte

Susan LaFlesche Picotte was born on June 17, 1865 on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Nebraska, the youngest of four girls.  Her mother Mary Gale was half French and half Omaha and her father Joseph LaFlesche was half white and Omaha.

Joseph LaFlesche played an important role in the Omaha nation and believed that if they were to survive they would need to become like the white people who were overtaking their lands.  Thus Joseph ensured that Susan received a white education and this meant being sent off reserve to attend school.

Early in Susan life she is described as witnessing the death of an Omaha person because the white doctor would not provide treatment.  Her outrage at this is described as placing her on a path that would see her become a physician at a time in history when women were believed to be unfit mentally to handle the rigors of higher education and add to this that she was aboriginal as well. 

Once obtaining her medical training she returned to the Omaha nation where she worked tirelessly as the residential boarding school physician and quickly thereafter to the people of Omaha.  In this position she earned substantially less than white doctors, and when medical supplies ran out it was from her personal earnings that she paid for needed supplies.

She married and had two sons, while continuing her medical practice.  She was active in the temperance movement knowing first hand the affects of alcohol on aboriginal families, her husband was an alcoholic. 

She was a public health activist, educating the Omaha people on how to prevent the spread of disease, in particular the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis and Susan was instrumental in building of a hospital on the Omaha reservation.

She was also a political activist, writing letters to government on behalf of herself and others on the issue of land entitlement.

There is a wonderful YouTube video called Drums of Change - a Nebraska Story about Susan LaFlesche Picotte click here if you would like to be directed to the 4 minute video produced by NetNebraska  

Susan LaFlesche Picotte is a Woman of History and her story is a powerful example to women today

Please visit these sites to learn more about Susan LaFlesche Picotte the first Native American Physician 
Grandma Snyder

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