Author: Jeri Ferris
Illustrator: Illustrations reproduced through the courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society, Chicago and North Western Railway; Smithsonian Institution National Anthropological Archives; Independent Picture Source; Glenbow Photographs, Hampton University Archival and Museum Collection, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia; The Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Library of Congress.
Grade Level: 3-5
“Native American Doctor: The Story of Susan LaFlesche Picotte” is a biography of a young Omaha Indian woman, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, who became the first Native American woman to graduate from medical school. Her life was complicated by the conflicts of her upbringing in a Native American family, and the need to be a part of the society that provided her education and training. Fortunately, she was born into a supportive family with her father being the Chief of Omahas and her mother being The One Woman of Omahas. Although, her father did not want any of his children to be marked in a white world he also believed the Omahas would have to learn ‘white ways’ if they were going to live in the new white world. Picotte became the first Native American female doctor and missionary. Susan’s overall goal was to open her medical practice to all, Indian and non-Indian alike, and treated their ailments for a generation. The overall message expressed is based on advocacy for unity and the suppression of inequities among the rights of woman and the biases held about the conflict between Native Americans and Anglo Americans.
Element 4- Social Movements and Social Change:
This book is a great representation of Element 4 because it introduces children to teaching others about, Susan LaFlesche Picotte, person of a the Native American minority population who made a difference and promoted social change and progress not only for Native American but women as whole. Picotte promoted the opportunity of health for all members of her community during at time where Native Americans were migrating and in conflict with Americans. She not only surpassed the expected role of women and became a doctor but she used her knowledge to help all and promote unity.
The book is suggested to be used to enhance the study of the Plains Indians or post-Civil war history. Some of the activities that can be incorporated along with the book in the classroom consist of having students dress up as their favorite subjects, and tell stories from “their” lives. Videotape the biographical presentations and having the whole class put on a play using scenes from their favorite biographies. In accordance with the book, the students can do a research project on the past of doctors, answering questions like what was it like to go to the doctor 250 years ago? 150 years ago? 80 years ago? Did children go in for checkups? Did the Indians have doctors (before Susan LaFlesche)? In doing so students can have a further understanding of the impact Susan LaFlesche Picotte made. Along with this, the students could also write letters and journals in the voice of the characters, telling the problems or joys of a typical day, week, and month.