Walthill Picotte Center Update

Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 8:13 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Efforts are now underway to restore a hospital built under the guidance of the first Native American doctor.

Dr. Susan LaFlesche Picotte graduated from a medical college in Pennsylvania in 1889. She was from the Omaha Indian Reservation, and upon graduating, she returned to Walthill. She built the first Native American hospital on the Omaha reservation without any federal funding.

In a previous interview, we talked with Pierre Merrick, who is a grandson of Dr. Susan LeFlesche Picotte. “Her father saw to it that she got an education,” Merrick said. When she became the first Native American doctor, it was at a time when few women in general dared to study medicine. The hospital she built in Walthill not only served Native Americans, but white people as well. Anyone who needed medical assistance was welcome at the hospital. The hospital was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.

The hospital needs repair, and work is underway restore it. With the restoration, the hospital will include a wellness-medical clinic, a historical museum, and a space for Native American arts and culture.

It turns out that the roof on the hospital was repaired last year. Gary Bowen, who is a member of the Picotte Center board of directors, tells us a $589,000 USDA Rural Development grant is now available to help being work on the exterior of the building. A ground-breaking ceremony will be held Saturday, September 12 (2020) to celebrate that progress. Next spring, we’re told a capital campaign will get underway to raise money for interior work. The restoration of the interior is expected to begin in 2022/ We will continue to keep you updated on the developments surrounding this project.

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