Susette La Flesche Tibbles

Lived:January 1, 1854—May 26, 1903 (aged 49)

Susette La Flesche Tibbles Bio

Susette La Flesche Tibbles, also known as Bright Eyes, was a Native American suffragist and activist. Her sister, Susan Le Flesche Picotte was the first Native American woman physician.

She was born in Bellevue, Nebraska in 1854 to Joseph La Flesche, the last recognized chief of the Omaha people. She attended the Presbyterian Mission Boarding Day School from 1862 to 1869. The brutality of forced assimilation at many of these boarding schools has been well documented. Native children were often forced to dress in Western clothing, speak English exclusively, and abandon all of their indigenous practices, resulting in a devastating loss of culture and community. Tibbles then attended the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey. After her graduation, she returned to the Omaha reservation and taught at a government school.

In 1877, Tibbles accompanied her father to investigate the conditions of the Ponca tribe, which had recently been dislocated. She served as the interpreter for Standing Bear, a Ponca chief who sued the American government for their treatment of the Ponca and won. She married Thomas Tibbles, a Native American activist who had worked with her on the Standing Bear case, in 1882. During this time, she gained the Native American name “Bright Eyes” after her father’s name “Iron Eyes” for her work advocating for her community. Tibbles and her husband embarked on a speaking tour in 1886 to promote Native American rights. She wrote and lectured about the plight of Native Americans until her death.

Susette La Flesche Tibbles died on May 26, 1903.

“La Flesche, Susette.” National Women's Hall of Fame. National Women's Hall of Fame. Accessed February 4, 2020.

“Susette La Flesche Tibbles.” Nebraska Studies. NET Foundation for Television. Accessed February 4, 2020.