Saturday, October 16, 2004

A brief summary of Chief Standing Bear's importance

The Ponca tribe's removal from Nebraska was cruel.

First, their land was included by mistakenly included in a treaty in 1868 saying their land belonged to the Sioux tribe. There was a nasty war between the Poncas and the Sioux over the small parcel of land in question. The U.S. government stepped in and decided the way to solve the problem was to send the Poncas to Indian Territory.

Ten chiefs of the tribe inspected the new territory and decided it was not acceptable for the Poncas. The U.S. government said "tough." The U.S. Army accompanied the Poncas as they were forced to walk to the new territory.

Many deaths occurred during the relocation. Chief Standing Bear's son was one of those who died. They tried to return to Nebraska for burial in their homeland. They and the others who tried to go with them were arrested on order of the Secretary of the Interior. They were ordered to return to Indian Territory.

Meanwhile, Standing Bear petitioned the court for a writ of Habeas Corpus. In a landmark case, Judge Dundy had to decide whether Indians had the same protection under the law as whites. The government tried to argue they did not, because they weren't citizens. Worse, they said, the Indians weren't even PEOPLE so had no right to sue the government.

After an impassioned speech by Standing Bear, on April 30, 1879, Judge Dundy stated that an Indian is a person within the law and that the Ponca were being held illegally. He set free Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe.

A government commission, appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, investigated and found the Ponca situation to be unjust. They arranged for the return of the Ponca from Indian Territory and allotted land to them along the Niobrara River.


Dr. ER said...

I'm glad you wrote about Standing Bear -- I presume you've seen my photo of him on my own blog? I have given large versions of that photo and one other I've take of him to some friends, and also to the main supporter of the creation of the Standing Bear Park in Ponca City. For anyone who is reading Trixie's blog, do yourself a favor and go to Ponca to the park. It's great. I was honored last year for the Standing Bear pow wow to use one of my photos for the cover of their pow wow program. I think they know how much I love that place. Thanks for writing about Standing Bear. And the rest of you -- go see the park!

Trixie said...

I have seen your great photo, and referred people to it down in my post with all the statue photos. Normally I stop at Standing Bear Park and spend a couple of hours there each time I'm "home". By the time I made my rounds this trip, it was nearly dark so I didn't stop. But I approached the park from the east this time just so I could see Standing Bear against the twilight sky (There is one small section of the road where the trees are clear, and if you know he's there you can catch a magnificent glance of him.) There was a lot of traffic from the refinery crew right at that moment so I couldn't even pull off the road to snap a quicky. I'll have to see if I can find some of my prints and scan them in to share.