Pre-Chautauqua Program Focuses on Ponca Chief Standing Bear


A pre-Chautauqua discussion program Sunday focused on Standing Bear.

Author Joe Starita shared his book with readers at the Grand Island Public Library. The book, "I Am a Man," chronicles the historic accounts of the forcible removal of Chief Standing Bear's Ponca tribe from Nebraska in 1877, and what happened when Standing Bear later returned to the state to bury his son.

The pre-Chautauqua event aims to prepare participants for the final night of the Grand Island Chautauqua, where Standing Bear will be the historic figure interpreted by historian Taylor Keen.

Starita said there are 562 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States and many share common values. "They refer to their old people as elders; we refer to our old people as elderly," he said.

The book tells the story of Chief Standing Bear's journey for justice. Standing Bear attempted to keep a death-bed promise to his son by walking more than 500 miles in the winter to return the boy's remains to the soil of their native Nebraska homeland along the Niobrara River.

The father ended up in a groundbreaking legal decision in which the federal judge declared for the first time in the nation's 103 year history that a Native American "is a person."

The case paved the way for legislation felt by millions today, including war veterans, immigrants, women, Native Americans and African Americans.

"You don't have to be Ponca to know what Standing Bear represented," Starita said. "He represented courage, honestly, bravery, fortitude, integrity -- and those are American values."

The Grand Island Chautauqua takes place June 26–30 at Stuhr Museum. For more information, log on to