While working with the then Indian Health Service from 1929 to1931, Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail helped to bring modern health care to her own people and to end abuses in the Indian health care system, such as the sterilization of Native American women without their consent. She effectively communicated Native American culture and perspectives to non-Indians throughout the country then as well as throughout her public service career.
From 1930 to 1960, the Montana nurse traveled throughout North American reservations to assess the health, social and educational problems Native Americans faced. One of her assessment's revealed that acutely ill Native American children were literally dying on the backs of their mothers, who often had to walk 20 to 30 miles to get to one of the five hospitals that served 160,000 Navajo. She also provided midwifery services to Native American and other women in the Little Horn Valley for 30 years.
Through her work with the then Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the founder of the Native American Nurses Association was instrumental in winning tribal and government funding to help Native Americans enter the nursing profession. In 1962, Yellowtail received the President's Award for Outstanding Nursing Health Care.