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A Warrior of the People

A Warrior of the People

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The poignant and moving biography of Susan La Flesche Picotte, the first Native American doctor in U.S. history.

Best Nonfiction Biography 2017 Nebraska Center for the Book Award Winner

On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche Picotte received her medical degree—becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country.

By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Native woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 1,350 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick—tuberculosis, small pox, measles, influenza—families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.

This is the story of an Indian woman who effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe, the story of a woman who crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial and gender prejudice, then spent the rest of her life using a unique bicultural identity to improve the lot of her people—physically, emotionally, politically, and spiritually.

Joe Starita's A Warrior of the People is the moving biography of Susan La Flesche Picotte’s inspirational life and dedication to public health, and it will finally shine a light on her numerous accomplishments.

The author is donating all royalties from this book to a college scholarship fund he has established for Native American high school graduates.

St. Martin's Griffin: 2018

Trade Paperback: 336 pages

About the Author

Joe Starita was an investigative reporter in New York and Miami for fifteen years before joining the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism, where he taught in-depth reporting for twenty years. A two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, the Lincoln native has won more than twenty national and regional awards for his reporting. Starita is the author of three acclaimed books on Native Americans: The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge–a Lakota Odyssey; I Am a Man–Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice and A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor. 

I Am a Man was the 2011 One Book—One Lincoln selection and the 2012 One Book One Nebraska selection. Starita’s books on Chief Standing Bear and Dr. Susan La Flesche are both being made into movies.

Some Reviews

"Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte rose to the level of near-sainthood in her dedication to medicine and her work among her Omaha tribe. Starita tells her fascinating story with a skill that kept me turning the pages. Dr. Picotte’s life of heroism against the toughest odds deserves to be more widely known; thanks to this fine and passionate book it will be." —Ian Frazier, author of Great Plains and On the Rez

"An important and riveting story of a 19th-century feminist and change agent. Starita successfully balances the many facts with vivid narrative passages that put the reader inside the very thoughts and emotions of La Flesche. This rebel's dogged determination is something of a roadmap and definitely an inspiration to those trying to break through 21st century glass ceilings." —Chicago Tribune

"A layered, nuanced portrait of this country's first American Indian doctor. Starita is a fine writer...and presents a layered portrait of her as a person with vulnerabilities and anxieties as well as dreams and determination. La Flesche’s story is moving and illuminating, and Starita has done it justice." —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Thoroughly researched… Starita’s biography of this remarkable woman is both heartening and enlightening." —Booklist

"Rarely has biographer fallen more deeply in love with his subject. Starita’s admiration for Susan La Flesche shines through every story. As we read A Warrior of the People, we also become enamored with this intelligent, determined and hard-working woman of the Omaha nation. La Flesche devoted her life to educating herself and helping her people. By telling this important story, Starita has assured her a prominent place in American history. Our citizens will remember her the way we remember Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Mother Jones and Rosa Parks. Bravo, Joe. Thank you for introducing all of us to a new hero." —Mary Pipher, New York Times bestselling author of Reviving Ophelia