The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation is helping to raise funds to restore the Picotte Memorial Hospital.
About Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte
Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first indigenous person to become a physician in the United States. Born in the Nebraska Territory in 1865, she was the youngest child of the last formal chief of the Omaha Tribe. Concerned by the lack of medical attention paid to those living on the Omaha reservation, she was motivated to become a medical doctor. On March 14, 1889, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte graduated at the top of her class from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
Upon completing her medical training, Dr. Susan returned to northeastern Nebraska where she dedicated the rest of her life to treating patients and teaching knowledge of common health practices to avoid the spread of disease. As the only physician on her 207 square mile reservation, she traveled and cared for more than 1,000 patients.
Dr. Susan’s dedication to her community culminated in her fundraising for a local hospital to be built on the reservation. The hospital was completed in 1913, although sadly Dr. Susan’s tenure at the hospital was short due to her death at age 49 in 1915.
The Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Center Restoration Project
The Picotte Memorial Hospital in Walthill, Nebraska, was renamed after Dr. Susan’s death in honor of the work she did for her community. Since its construction, the hospital has also served as a nursing home, bakery, family residence and upholstery shop. At one time, rooms on the first floor housed a museum, and in 1993 the site was declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, however, the building sits empty and ready for repurposing.
The Memorial Hospital Restoration Project is currently underway. A grant awarded to the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs from the USDA provided funding for a detailed three- phase master plan developed by BVH Architecture.
In 2019, funds from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Foundation paid for the completion of phase I of the project, with the installation of a new roof. Phase II was completed with a grant from the USDA and private donations – during which time the exterior, foundation and windows were restored.
Now, the project is about to embark on its third and final phase. The final phase includes the restoration of the hospital interior. By following the U.S. Department of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation, the Picotte Center will be able to take advantage of the Historic Tax Credit program.
Upon completion of the final project phase, proposed features of the updated property include:
- Wellness Clinic and Mental Health Services
- A museum and gift shop
- Space for Honoring Native Heritage and Culture
- Youth Programming Room
- Collaborative Workspace and Meeting Rooms
To date, $60,000 has been raised by the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation from the generosity of the D F Dillon Foundation but we need to raise an additional $75,000 to help this project meet its goal. Your support will help to preserve Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte’s legacy and provide a place for the people of Walthill to celebrate their Native American culture and heritage. Please consider making a donation at the secure links below:
The Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Sculpture Project
A sculpture of Dr. Susan was revealed in Lincoln, Nebraska’s Centennial Mall on October 11, 2021, as part of the celebration of Nebraska’s first ever Indigenous People’s Day. Sculptor Ben Victor, who also created the Chief Standing Bear sculpture which now also sits at Centennial Mall, was commissioned to create the sculpture honoring Dr. Susan. Victor is recognized as the youngest artist to ever have a sculpture in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, which he achieved at the age of 26.
You can read sculptor Benjamin Victor’s full artist statement on the sculpture here.
The funding for the Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte statue, which now proudly stands in Lincoln’s Centennial Mall, was graciously donated by Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation’s Secretary-Treasurer Larry Small. The foundation also provided support for the statue unveiling event by donating to the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. This donation will help to pay for one-third of the tribal flags representing the 27 historic tribal nations currently displayed as part of the Stone Light circle on Centennial Mall near the sculpture of Chief Standing Bear.