Journalism and Mass Communications, College of


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: Journalism and Mass Communications, Under the Supervision of Professor Joe Starita. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 2011
Copyright 2011 Erin Pedigo


This thesis explores the journalism career of Susette La Flesche Tibbles (Bright Eyes), a nineteenth-century Omaha Indian woman. She was the oldest daughter of Joseph La Flesche, Jr. (Iron Eye). Her father was metis, born of a French father and Ponca mother. Joseph La Flesche was the last chief of the Omaha tribe chosen in the traditional manner.

Susette’s work as an Omaha Morning World-Herald reporter during the Ghost Dance trouble and Wounded Knee massacre at Pine Ridge Agency from December 1890 to January 1891, and from 1893-1895 as a writer for both the American Nonconformist and the Lincoln Independent, two Populist papers, has been overlooked. Her journalism career has been overshadowed by her collaboration with the Ponca chief Standing Bear following the United States ex. rel. Standing Bear v. Crook case in 1879, which determined that Native Americans had some constitutional rights that the government would acknowledge. Following this case she and others embarked on a lecturing mission to call attention to unfair treatment of Native Americans.

Her journalism career has been either largely overlooked or totally ignored, as in a 1974 biography, in larger works about her influential and unique family, and even in scholarly works. Examining her time as a reporter for papers dealing with two very different subjects rounds out her personality and passions, and it also allows a glimpse into one second-generation mixed-blood woman’s experience in the 19th century journalistic world.