Susette La Flesche: Voice of the Omaha Indians Critical Essays

Margaret Crary


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Crary’s portrait of La Flesche works in two essential ways as a biography for young adults. First, it is the story of an adolescent searching for her own identity and persona. The complicating factor in La Flesche’s search was that she had to complete it in the context of two conflicting cultures and in a very difficult historical period for her Native American people. The second way in which the book functions as a work for young adults is in its appeal to the idealism of youth. The reader joins La Flesche in her gradual discovery of the degree of injustice being rendered against her people. The reader’s anger and sympathy are aroused, and in sharing the emotional current of the story, the reader can identify with La Flesche in her urge to use her own developing talents to promote the cause of justice for her people.

La Flesche’s journey of self-discovery was not an easy one, as both of her parents were of mixed blood. Iron Eye was the son of a French trader and a Native American woman. La Flesche’s mother was the daughter of a Native American woman and a United States Army surgeon. Iron Eye was brought into the Omaha tribe by Big Elk, who had lost his only son. Big Elk adopted the boy and announced that Iron Eye would inherit the chieftainship.

As the daughter of the principal chief, La Flesche was reared with strict discipline to act as a model to other Omaha children. According to Crary, however, Iron Eye realized that the tribe had to give up many of its traditional ways, and there was much criticism and resistance against Iron Eye and his family. When La Flesche was twelve years old, it was expected that she...

(The entire section is 676 words.)