Unveiling of Statue
The Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte statue was unveiled by descendants of Picotte at the Indigenous Peoples’ Day celebration on Monday Oct. 11, in Lincoln. Photo by Sarah Merza/NNS

Nebraska tribes celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day at the Nebraska Capitol on Monday, Oct. 11. 

This is the first year Indigenous Peoples’ Day was celebrated in Nebraska, as a result of Nebraska LB 848. This bill, which became law in 2020, was proposed by State Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln. LB 848 designates the second Monday in October of each year as Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

“Today, Nebraska joins a growing list of states and cities across the nation that are celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day,” Pansing Brooks said in a speech at the celebration.

The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs hosted the Indigenous Peoples’ Day event. The day included a Tribal Flag Dedication Ceremony.

A part of LB848 states that flags from the four Nebraska headquartered tribes – Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux, and Winnebago – must be permanently displayed within the Warner Legislative Chamber of the Nebraska State Capitol.

“These flags represent our tribal nations, our sovereign tribal nations, and the government-to-government relationship that we have with the federal government through treaties in this country,” Larry Wright Jr., the Ponca tribal chairman, said at the dedication.

The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska hosted a powwow dance drumming exhibition in the Capitol Rotunda.

The event also included the unveiling and dedication of the Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte statue on Centennial Mall outside of the Capitol. The statue is by artist Benjamin Victor and was commissioned and given to the city by Larry Small, a Lincoln local.

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“It is so exciting seeing it in bronze here. It’s been a long process of creating the clay and studying her inspiring life, reading all about her,” said artist Benjamin Victor. Photo by Sarah Merza/NNS
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“I shall fight good and hard even if I have to fight alone.” A quote by Susan La Flesche Picotte is engraved on the statue. Photo by Sarah Merza/NNS
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The Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte Statue was placed on to its podium on Friday Oct. 8, on Centennial Mall, in Lincoln. “Now seeing her in bronze ready to be installed, I just have butterflies in my stomach,” artist Benjamin Victor said. Photo by Sarah Merza/NNS

Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman physician. Picotte received a medical degree from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1889, becoming the first Native person to earn a medical degree. After earning her degree, she returned to the Omaha reservation to care for Native and non-native residents. She also opened a hospital in Walthill, two years before her death, according to the City of Lincoln Nebraska website.

This statue honors the rich history of the Indigenous people in the state of Nebraska.

“This new holiday presents a tremendous opportunity to honor the humanity and contributions of our First People to the State of Nebraska,” Pansing Brooks said in a press release. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is a day to reflect on our past as well as a day to challenge ourselves to build a brighter and more inclusive future for all our people.”

Even though Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not a federal holiday, this is the first year the president has issued a proclamation marking Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This day coincides with Columbus Day, which is a federal holiday.

“On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations,” President Joe Biden wrote in a proclamation.

Journalism and Advertising/Public Relations double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating Dec 2021