Who Was The World’s First Native American Doctor?

To this day women still find it difficult to succeed in certain fields.

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At a time when women did not even have the vote and Native Americans could not even be citizens, imagine how hard it must have been for Susan La Flesche to overcome not only being female but also a Native American to become the first Native American woman doctor in the United States. The story is now being shared to all in a new book that tells the story of how Susan overcame these obstacles at a time when racial and gender discrimination were at their peak.

She went on to finish top of her class at medical school, looked after the whole reservation while still raising children and having a full time job. She had a childhood experience of watching an elderly women die while waiting for the doctor. She later realised that the race of the old woman was the reason the doctor had take so long. She was eight years old when this happened but it put her on the path to learn and grow so she could help others, particularly other members of her Omaha tribe.

“It has always been a desire of mine to study medicine ever since I was a small girl,” she wrote when older, “for even then I saw the need of my people for a good physician.” Susan was born on June 17, 1865 on the Omaha Indian Reservation in northeast Nebraska to parents of mixed race. Her father was Chief Joseph La Flesche. Otherwise known as “Iron Eye”. He believed that the tribe was living in a white man’s world and the only constant would be change.

In his book “A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor.” Author Joe Starita wrote: “As the chief guardian of welfare, he realized they would have to adapt to white ways or simply cease to survive,” He added “He began an almost intense indoctrination of his four daughters. They would have to speak English and go to white schools.” The book tells the amazing story of how La Flesche over came unbelievable obstacles to become the success she was. She passed away aged 50.