“A Warrior of the People” Shares Story of First Native American Doctor

Apr 3, 2017

On March 14th, 1889 Susan La Flesche became the first Native American to receive her medical degree. Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Joe Starita has written about the life and legacy of Dr. La Flesche in his new book  A Warrior of the People.

In this book, Starita paints an intimate portrait of the American west, showing what life was like for a woman on a vast reservation. Despite facing hurdles as both a woman and as a Native American, La Flesche's determination to help others carried her through difficult times.

“She had a lot of roadblocks put in front of her but the majesty, the magic, and the beauty of Susan’s narrative arc is that she never let any of those knock her down and keep her down. She just kept going. She was going to become a doctor no matter what. She was going to come home and take care of her people no matter what. ”

Starita attributes much of Susan’s success to the values instilled by her father and Omaha tribe chief, Joseph La Flesche. He saw changes to the world rapidly approaching and believed adaptation was necessary for the survival of his people.

“Education was the glue that held his vision together. Without education, he saw no way that his beloved four daughters and son could ever succeed because a new dominant order had replaced tribal tradition.”

During this hour of this Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Starita about La Flesche’s life and the process of researching his new book.

He will be giving a lecture on Monday, April 10th at 7:00 p.m. in Dolezal Auditorium in Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State University campus.