Medicine Woman

It’s all interconnected and Native people speak of it that way.
It’s the western world that needs to catch up.

-Dr. Lori Arviso Alvord

What does it take to heal a people? That’s the question at the heart of Medicine Woman, a new one-hour PBS documentary interweaving the lives of Native healers of today with that of the first Native American doctor. Born on the Nebraska frontier in 1865, Susan La Flesche Picotte studied medicine at a time when few women dared. She graduated first in her Philadelphia class and returned home to a shattered world. She spent the rest of her life working to help her people become whole again.


Susan La Flesche Picotte (Photo Credit: The Hampton University Museum and Archives)

Doctor Lucy Reifel with Casey


Like Doctor Susan, modern day medicine women are fighting a war, sharing a confident, even joyful approach to the work of healing. In Medicine Woman you’ll meet three remarkable women, from the Omaha, Lakota and Navajo tribes. Without fanfare, in their own communities, they perform small miracles that the world rarely sees.

How can they hope to mend the wounds of body and spirit that history has created? And what have they learned about new ways of healing that can help us all?

Producers are Christine Lesiak and Princella RedCorn (Omaha). Actress Irene Bedard (Inupiat/Metis) is the voice of Doctor Susan. Poet and musician Joy Harjo (Mvskoke) narrates the documentary.


NET Virtual Learning Library: Medicine Woman…It’s Love That Heals
Explore classroom resources from this PBS LearningMedia module
Discover more about Susan La Flesche Picotte and the lives she has touched. Includes additional clips, discussion questions, and a study guide for extended learning.
Joe Starita
Watch University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Journalism & Mass Communications professor Joe Starita talk about his latest book, "A Warrior of the People."
Princella RedCorn
Listen to co-producer Princella RedCorn's interview with Invisible Nations about the Medicine Woman screening in Tulsa, OK.

Video from Medicine Woman

She was America’s first Native doctor, breaking barriers of race and gender to heal her traumatized people. A century later,... more››
In her letters home, Susan La Flesche describes her fascination with medical school, her enjoyment of the fine homes in... more››
In medical school, Lori overcomes her fear of a traditional Navajo taboo and performs her first autopsy. Later, she seeks help... more››
When Dr. Lucy Reifel returned to her ancestral community on the Rosebud Reservation, babies were at high risk. Over time, she... more››
Loretta Bad Heart Bull is a Lakota medicine woman on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. She welcomed Omaha tribal... more››
As her daily journal testifies, Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte responded tirelessly to the needs of her people for a healer,... more››