Susan La Flesche, this country’s first American Indian doctor, had a remarkable life. Born in 1865 in an Omaha Indian tepee on the Nebraska prairie, she grew up learning about two often clashing cultures, pushed by her parents to work and study hard. Educated in East Coast schools and celebrated by white progressives, she returned to Nebraska after becoming a doctor to serve, and fight for, her people.

Joe Starita, a former investigative reporter and a fine writer, salutes La Flesche’s strength and fundamental nobility in the face of astounding odds, but thankfully goes beyond that to present a layered portrait of her as a person with vulnerabilities and anxieties as well as dreams and determination.

Drawing extensively on her own words, he capably sets her life within the broader context of 19th-century America and its treatment of native people and of women. La Flesche’s story is moving and illuminating, and Starita has done it justice.


Pamela Miller is a night metro editor at the Star Tribune.

A Warrior of the People
By: Joe Starita.
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 304 pages, $25.99.