Susan LaFlesche Picotte (1865 –1915) was an Omaha Native American doctor and the first Native American to earn a medical degree. The Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte Memorial Hospital, is a hospital in Walthill, Nebraska, on the Omaha Indian Reservation. The hospital developed by Dr. LaFlesche Picotte was built with money raised by Picotte from various sources, and was the first hospital for any Indian reservation not funded by government money.
On the Omaha Reservation Picotte she campaigned to prevent and treat tuberculosis which then had no cure. She also worked to help other Omaha navigate the bureaucracy of the Office of Indian affairs (later it became the BIA) and receive the money owed to them for the sale of their land.
Susan LaFlesche was born in June 1865 on the Omaha Reservation in eastern Nebraska. Her father, Joseph LaFlesche, also called Iron Eye, was of Ponca and French Canadian ancestry and identified culturally as Omaha. He was adopted by Chief Young Elk in 1853, who chose him as his successor, and LaFlesche was the last chief of the Omaha tribe. Her mother, Mary Gale, was the daughter of Dr. John Gale, an Army surgeon stationed at Fort Atkinson, and Nicomi, a woman of Omaha-Oto-Iowa heritage. Mary Gale understood French and English, yet she refused to speak any language other than Omaha.
LaFlesche's education began at the mission boarding school on the reservation. She later studied at the Elizabeth Institute in New Jersey, and after attended the Hampton Institute in Virginia from 1884 to 1886. It had been established historically as a black college after the American Civil War, but had become a destination also for Native American students.
In 1886 that she was accepted at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. In the late 19th century, only a few medical schools accepted women.
In1894, LaFlesche married Henry Picotte, Yankton Lakota. Picotte and her husband three children: and continued to practice medicine after the birth of her children. This was unusual for Victorian-era women, who were generally expected to stay home after children were born.
In June 1889, she became the government physician at the Omaha Agency Indian School on the Omaha Reservation. Picotte educated her community about health issues, including temperance, and helped to pass The Meiklejohn Bill which became law in January 1897, Picotte was also the chair of the state health committee of the Nebraska Federation of Women's Clubs during the first decade of the 20th century and campaigned for the building of a hospital on the reservation which was completed in 1913 and later named in her honor.
Her most important crusade was against tuberculosis, which killed hundreds of Omaha, including her husband Henry in 1905.