Chief Standing Bear returns home 140 years later


In 1877, he protested the federal government’s eviction of the Ponca from their northeastern Nebraska land, and he later returned to the state after setting out on a grueling journey on foot in the winter to bury his son.
The resulting landmark court case established that a Native American is a “person” under the law.
On Sunday Chief Standing Bear returned to Nebraska again. And this time, instead of fighting for his right to stay in the place he loved most, he was honored by politicians and a large crowd.
Following speeches and traditional dances, the nearly 10-foot-tall sculpture of Standing Bear was revealed outside the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications on Centennial Mall.
The great-great-great granddaughter of Standing Bear, Rebecca Wright, helped uncover the bronze statue, joined by her young children.
Although Standing Bear died long before Wright was born, he was a constant presence in her life.
“My parents instilled a sense of leadership in us,” she said between tears. “It was always really important that we knew where we came from.”
The sculpture is an important step, she said, for Nebraska and Native American communities because it offers a formal recognition of the history and struggles of the Ponca.
Despite Standing Bear’s protest of the federal government’s 1877 eviction of the tribe from its ancestral homeland, the Ponca were forced to relocate. In the summer of 1878, they marched 600 miles to Indian Territory, a reservation in Oklahoma. Standing Bear’s daughter and many others died during the Ponca’s Trail of Tears.
Once there, it was too late to plant crops that summer and they had poor farmland, no farming equipment and nothing to eat. It was illegal for the tribe to leave the reservation’s borders.
Chief Standing Bear watched as his son and others in the tribe died from starvation or were ravaged by disease.
Before his 16-year-old son died, he told Standing Bear of his last wish: to be buried at home, in Nebraska, so his soul would not wander forever in an unknown land.
Stricken with grief, Standing Bear gathered a group of men and began the journey home to bury his son. The group was eventually arrested for leaving the reservation, but before they were forced to return to Oklahoma, a journalist wrote about their story in the Omaha Daily Herald and found two lawyers to assist the group.
The court case that followed in 1879 determined that Native Americans are people, therefore entitled to the rights afforded to all others.
When Wright looked up at the statue Sunday afternoon, she saw more than her family — she saw her tribe and all of the challenges they’ve overcome.
When Wright was born, the Ponca tribe wasn’t even officially in existence. (In the 1960s, the tribe’s status was terminated by the federal government.) They were federally recognized again in 1990.
Wright’s children were born as Ponca tribe members.
Their story isn’t something often taught in public schools, she said, which makes the sculpture even more powerful because it draws attention to the tribe’s history.
“Nebraska had really poor relationships with the indigenous community for almost as long as Nebraska’s been a state,” said Angel Geller of the Omaha tribe, a sister tribe to the Ponca. “To have a presence on the walkway up to the Capitol is very beautiful.”
Scott Chism (left) and Avery Quakenbush help guide Ben Victor’s bronze Chief Standing Bear statue onto its base on Centennial Mall Thursday morning. The piece will be officially dedicated in a ceremony Sunday.
Geller, a Nebraska Wesleyan University student, worked as an assistant to sculptor Ben Victor during the project.
For a week in March, Victor worked on the Standing Bear sculpture in the Jayne Snyder Trail Center and encouraged the public to watch and talk with him about the process.
Geller had the opportunity to help sculpt Standing Bear’s moccasins.

“Thinking about how he had to walk the Trail of Tears and after his son died having to walk to bury his son back in Nebraska and just thinking about all of that walking, it was amazing to be able to put beads on his moccasins,” she said.
Like Wright, Geller had three generations of her family present at Sunday’s dedication.
The project held special meaning for her family, especially her grandfather, and she was proud to help bring a piece of Nebraska’s native history to life.
But what really stood out about the project is something still to come.
A replica of the sculpture will be placed on Ponca tribal land, in Niobrara, so that Chief Standing Bear can forever watch over his homeland.
“The story itself is really emotional, but when they agreed to place him back in Niobrara, when I heard that it made me cry,” Geller said. “I don’t think he really intended everything that came out of this, he just wanted to go home.”



  1. A person essentially lend a hand to make critically posts I’d state.

    This is the first time I frequented your website page and to this point?
    I surprised with the analysis you made to make this actual publish extraordinary.
    Fantastic process!

  2. After exploring a number of the articles on your web page, I really like your way of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my website as well and tell me your opinion.|

  3. I got this web site from my pal who shared with me concerning this web page and now this time I am visiting this website and reading very informative articles at this place.|

  4. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this submit and if I may just I desire to recommend you some attention-grabbing things or tips. Maybe you can write subsequent articles regarding this article. I want to learn more issues approximately it!

  5. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or
    something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a
    little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A great read.

    I will definitely be back.

  6. I don’t even understand how I finished up here, but I thought this publish was good.
    I do not understand who you might be however definitely you’re going to a well-known blogger when you are not already.

  7. Appreciating the time and effort you put into your site
    and detailed information you offer. It’s great to come across a blog every
    once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information.
    Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to
    my Google account.

  8. Someone essentially assist to make critically posts I would state.
    That is the very first time I frequented your web page and up to now?
    I surprised with the research you made to create this actual
    submit incredible. Excellent activity!

  9. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously
    this weblog and I’m impressed! Very useful info particularly the
    ultimate part 🙂 I care for such information a lot.
    I was seeking this certain info for a very lengthy time.
    Thanks and best of luck.

  10. This is very interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of
    your wonderful post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

  11. ALT5EF Your style is very unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you ave got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this web site.

  12. Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I ave been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

  13. Thanks , I’ve just been searching for info about this topic for a while and
    yours is the greatest I have found out so far. However, what
    about the conclusion? Are you positive about the source?

  14. It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and
    it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you some interesting things or suggestions.
    Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article.
    I desire to read more things about it!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here