SUSIE YELLOWTAIL – NATIVE AMERICAN HEALTH ADVOCATE
“She became a watchdog on health care….”
Susie Yellowtail was a dedicated and compassionate advocate for Native American health care, traveling the country for more than 30 years to help Native communities nationwide gain better access to quality care. Orphaned at the age of 12, she used her tragic circumstances as an inspiration to help others. Her story is as inspiring as it is remarkable.
In the United States today, there are an estimated 5.2 million Native Americans. The vast majority – nearly 65% – continue to live on tribal lands and reservations. In recent years, Native communities have made significant economic gains, with increases in income, a reduction in poverty, a rising rate of home ownership, and an overall increase in the number of Native-owned businesses. Despite these achievements, however, many Native communities continue to struggle with a devastating economic and social issues. Native American communities generally have higher rates of poverty, unemployment, addiction, violence, vandalism, theft, and suicide. The social challenges these populations face are enormous.
Along with these difficult issues, many Native Americans are also coping with a major healthcare crisis. In Native communities across the U.S., healthcare services are generally substandard. In addition, nearly 25% of Native Americans have no health insurance of any kind. Natives typically suffer from higher rates of diabetes, respiratory disease, and liver disease. As a result, they generally have a lower life expectancy than the rest of the US population. Despite these challenges, there are many Native Americans working today to improve healthcare services on tribal lands. One of the pioneers in this field was Susie Yellowtail.
By Staff Writer Joseph CollinsSusie Yellowtail was one of the first Native Americans to graduate medical school and become a registered nurse in the United States. As a bold and compassionate humanitarian, she was committed to helping Native people gain greater access to health care. Susie Yellowtail travelled throughout the US, determined to identify the most common health problems in Native communities, so she could help address them. Working through the Indian Health Service and the Public Health Service organizations, she fought to ensure that Native Americans received the health care they deserved. Her commitment to helping her people earned her a place in history and many honors, including the President’s Award for Outstanding Nursing Health Care. This is her story.