University of Nebraska Press


Date of this Version

Fall 2013


© 2013 by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve Illustrations

© 2013 by the net Foundation,675774.aspx


Imagine having to argue in court that you are a person. Yet this is just what Standing Bear, of the Ponca Indian tribe, did in Omaha in 1879. And because of this trial, the law finally said that an Indian was indeed a person, with rights just like any other American.

Standing Bear of the Ponca tells the story of this historic leader, from his childhood education in the ways and traditions of his people to his trials and triumphs as chief of the Bear Clan of the Ponca tribe. Most harrowing is the winter trek on which Standing Bear led his displaced people, starving and sick with malaria, back to their homeland—only to be arrested by the U.S. government, which set the stage for his famous trial. Standing Bear’s story is also the story of a changing America, when the Ponca, like so many Indian tribes, felt the pressure of pioneers looking to settle the West. Standing Bear died in 1908, but his legacy and influence continue even up to the present.