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Standing Bear Statue Dedication

The Nebraska State Capitol serves as a history book of Nebraska through its artwork and symbolism. No history of Nebraska is complete without mentioning the First Nebraskans. On the exterior of the Capitol flanking the main entrance stair, the names of the Native American tribes to call Nebraska home are inscribed above the Indiana limestone carvings of bison and Native American poems and prayers. Native American symbols of corn, arrows and bison are featured throughout the decoration of the Capitol.

A monumental statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear will be dedicated on Centennial Mall and will join the images of Standing Bear included in the Nebraska State Capitol in recognition of his contribution to Native America rights.  The Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission inducted Standing Bear in 1977 to join other important Nebraskans in the Capitol’s Hall of Fame. Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, translator during his historic 1879 trial is also included in the Hall of Fame, inducted in 1983. The Trial of Standing Bear was included in the Memorial Chamber murals by Omaha artist Stephen Roberts to represent The Ideals of Freedom.

In 1877 the Ponca Tribe was forcibly removed from Nebraska to Indian Territory to make way for pioneer settlement of their traditional homeland. Following the death of his son in Oklahoma, Standing Bear, in defiance of the federal government, left Oklahoma’s Indian Territory to travel north and bury his son in Nebraska. While in Nebraska, the small band of first people were arrested and detained. Awaiting removal to Oklahoma, Standing Bear, with support from Omaha attorneys, sued the federal government for writ of habeas corpus. In this landmark trial, Judge Elmer Dundy ruled that an Indian is a person under the law and is entitled to its rights and protections. Standing Bear and his band were allowed to remain in Nebraska.

This little known but significant victory for human rights and the human spirit is being recognized once more with the installation and dedication of a monumental bronze sculpture of Standing Bear on Lincoln’s Centennial Mall near P Street. It is fitting the statue is located across from the University of Nebraska’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. It was Thomas Tibbles, editor of the Omaha Daily Herald, who first publicized Standing Bear’s plight and generated support for his cause. Tibbles married Standing Bear’s translator Susette and they traveled the eastern United States with Standing Bear as he lectured about Native American rights.

The 10’ tall statue will be dedicated  on Sunday October 15, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. on Centennial Mall between Q and P Streets. The program will begin at 12:30 p.m. with Native American drums and dancers. The public is encouraged to attend and recognize the contribution of Standing Bear in the First People of the Great Plains fight for civil rights. The statue by nationally known artist Ben Victor captures Standing Bear as he stands in the courtroom, hand extended declaring “I Am A Man”. A reception will follow the dedication.

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