Susette La Flesche was born into the Omaha tribe of Nebraska and attended school on the East Coast before returning home to teach in her community. In 1877, La Flesche saw the neighboring Ponca tribe expelled from their land, a calamity that killed up to one-third of all tribal members. Taking matters into her own hands, La Flesche became an advocate for Native peoples. She married Thomas Tibbles, a white reporter for the Omaha Herald in 1881. Together, the couple helped publicize the case of Standing Bear v. Crook, which resulted in a landmark civil rights ruling that recognized American Indians as persons under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
“She was a precursor to today’s Native people, who find themselves living in two worlds,” says Blue Spruce. “Through her Western education, she was able to advocate for her own people in a non-Native world.”