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FREEDOM HERO:
CHIEF STANDING BEAR
by T.D. from Eden Prairie

Chief Standing Bear

Imagine if you lived in Nebraska and it was just the beginning of winter in 1875 and facing many Sioux [Dakota] attacks. That was the reality for Ponca chief Standing Bear his tribe. The Ponca were getting ready for the winter. His family was working when a white man came and said "Sorry, you need to leave. White men are coming, you can't stay." From there they left on the path to an Oklahoman reservation.

On the way the Chief's son Bear Shield died. The Chief was distraught and frustrated greatly. He mourned like any father yet he wasn't down. He recovered quickly, no mere act of bravado. He started to Nebraska for his son's last wish was to be buried in the "homeland". He started to Nebraska were he really became a hero. When it came to bury his son he was stopped by Nebraska settlers. The news spread to officials. An official called General Crook heard and called that a man referred to as Lieutenant Carpenter and 4 others, arrested Chief Standing Bear and his supporters.

The men were taken back to a "detention center" near the reserve. Standing Bear eventually met the Omaha Daily Herald that supported Native Americans. He spoke out against the wrong doing against him and the american supreme court payed attention to him. He claimed he was being deprived of his rights. A historic argument broke out. Native American rights were being considered.

Standing Bear went to court and asked for their rights. They desired rights and supported themselves with the 14th Amendment. 'No person shall be deprived of liberty, life, and property'. Crook argued that Native Americans were not persons and did not deserve rights as humans. General George Crook opposed this and represented the U.S. Army. The trial lasted approximately 2 days. Standing Bear said, "I am a man and my skin isn't like yours yet if I pierce my hand I'll feel pain and if you pierce hand you'll feel pain. The blood that will flow out of me will be the same color as yours that will flow out. I am man. We were made by the same God."

Judge Dundy answered, "Webster defines a person as an individual of a race." He said Native Americans do count as U.S. citizens for they have lived on the land. After the court case went in favor of the Ponca they decided to make peace with the Dakota Native Americans. Standing Bear was a hero because he made Native Americans noticed in the legal system. Also 21 years after he died Native Americans got rights to become citizens. Standing Bear became a hero for his wish for Native Americans to be equal to their white counterparts.


Written by T.D. from Eden Prairie
Last changed on: 4/26/2010

Chief Standing Bear Wikipedia

The Trial of Standing Bear Nebraska Studies

Standing Bear's Footprints Documentary by Nebraska Education Telecommunications

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