“Do not grieve. Misfortunes will happen to the wisest and best of men. Death will come, always out of season. It is the command of the Great Spirit, and all nations and people must obey. What is past and what cannot be prevented should not be grieved for…. Misfortunes do not flourish particularly in our lives — they grow everywhere.”
Chief Big Elk, Omaha
“I shall vanish and be no more, but the land over which I now roam shall remain and change not.”
Omaha Warrior Song
Joseph LaFlesche (Iron Eye) (ca 1820-1888)
Omaha tribal chief
The Indian name of Joseph LaFlesche, also known as Iron Eye, was E-sta-mah-za. LaFlesche, the son of a Frenchman and a woman of the Ponca tribe, was the adopted son of Chief Big Elk, the First, of the Omahas. He was selected by Big Elk to be his successor as chief. LaFlesche’s policy, favoring civilization and education for the Omaha tribe, was met with disapproval by the Omahas. He brought about the elimination of intemperance among tribal members during his rule. Even though he was trusted and respected, the time he was chief of the Omahas was filled with strife.
Visualizing that white people would soon populate the Plains region, LaFlesche advocated the tribe’s peaceful cohabitation of the Plains by their becoming farmers and by their seeking education for their children. Though he had no formal education, and could not speak English, nor read or write, LaFlesche wanted his people to have the rights citizenship would bring, and also to own land individually by patent.
LaFlesche was the last be to made chief under the old Omaha rituals. As mediator between the Omaha tribe and the government, he tried to ease the Omaha’s way into the new society in which they found themselves.
LaFlesche was married twice, first to Mary,the daughter of Dr. John Gale and Nicomi, a woman of the Iowa tribe. His second wife was Tainne of the Omaha tribe. He was the father of several children, among them Susette (Bright Eyes) Tibbles, Susan Picotte, who was a physician, and Francis LaFlesche, who was an author in Washington, D. C.
Susan La Flesche Picotte 1865 — 1915
Physician, tribal leader; born on the Omaha reservation in Nebraska. Daughter of Omaha Chief Joseph La Flesche (Iron Eye), she was educated in New Jersey and then at the Hampton Institute (Va.), graduating in 1886 with high honor. She then studied at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1889, and returned to her tribe as a physician (1890–94) and all-around medical overseer. In 1894 she married Henry Picotte (half Sioux, half French) and they moved to Bancroft, Nebr., where she continued her medical practice while raising two children. With the founding of the town of Walthill in the Omaha reservation, she became so active in community and child affairs, as well as a medical doctor, that she was effectively the leader of the Omahas. The hospital she founded (1913) was named after her upon her death.
Susette La Flesche Tibbles, (originally Inshtatheumba, “Bright Eyes”) 1854 — 1903
Omaha reformer, author, and illustrator, born in present-day Nebraska, USA (sister of Susan La Flesche Picotte). Both grandfathers were Caucasians, both grandmothers were Native Americans; her father was an Omaha chief, her mother was more involved with the world of whites. After studying at a girls school in Elizabeth, NJ, Susette returned to the reservation and became a teacher in a government school. In an infamous affair in its day, the Ponca Indians were forcibly removed from their lands in 1877; in the national protest that followed, Susette La Flesche travelled to the East as translator for the Ponca chief, Standing Bear, on a lecture tour organized by an Omaha newspaperman, Thomas Tibbles. (She coauthored, with Standing Bear, Ploughed Under: The Story of an Indian Chief, 1882.) She and Tibbles were married in 1881 and their crusade led to the passage of the Dawes Act of 1887. The Tibbles also travelled to England to present the case for Native Americans’ claims to their land. Thereafter she lectured occasionally, wrote various articles, and gained a minor reputation as an artist-illustrator. She and her husband lived most of their years in Nebraska where she died on her native land.