WALTHILL, Neb.- Efforts are underway to restore a hospital built under the guidance of the first Native American doctor.
Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte graduated from a medical college in Pennsylvania in 1889. She was from the Omaha Indian Reservation, and upon graduating, she returned to Walthill. She built the first Native American hospital on the Omaha reservation without any federal funding.
We recently talked to Pierre Merrick, who is a grandson of Dr. Susan LeFlesche Picotte. "Her father saw to it that she got an education," Merrick said. When she became the first Native American doctor, it was at a time when few women in general dared to study medicine. The hospital she built in Walthill not only served Native Americans, but white people as well. Anyone who needed medical assistance was welcome at the hospital. The hospital was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
Today, the hospital is in need of repair. A coalition of groups are working together to create a new vision for the hospital. It will continue to be a museum, and a cultural attraction that will honor the legacy of Dr. Susan. But it will also house offices, and the hope is that a renovated and restored building could also serve as a way to spur new small business development in rural Walthill.
We will keep you updated on the progress of this project. For more information, you can contact the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.