LINCOLN, Neb. – A statue of Chief Standing Bear now lives in our nation’s capitol.
The Nebraskan is a civil rights icon who paved to way for countless Native Americans and his statue is set to be a permanent reminder to not just Nebraskans but people from all over of his contributions.
“It’s really important for us as native people,” said Kirby Williams of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. “To not just look at stories like this but to see how we can continue that legacy.”
Each state is allowed to have statues of two notable people on display in the hall. Some of Nebraska’s elected leaders were on hand in Washington for unveiling.
“Our motto is equality before the law and that’s what Chief Standing Bear was asking for, just to be recognized as a person,” said Governor Pete Ricketts. “That his civil rights were to be recognized and to be entitled to the same rights as anybody else.”
Chief Standing Bear was a leader of the Ponca Tribe in the late 1800s, best known for trying to return to Nebraska to bury his son on native land.
“To be with their people,” said Williams. “We as native people have a very strong connection to our ancestral homelands.”
He was detained for leaving his reservation in Oklahoma and had a two day trial in Omaha District Court.
“To try and argue why that was wrong. To say that he as an indigenous person should be recognized as a person,” said Williams.
In 1879 he won the landmark case, which legally declared Native Americans as people.
“To have the courage to stand before essentially a foreign nation and to say I am a person and should be treated as such because we are no different just because of our skin tone is monumental,” said Williams.
In 2018 the Nebraska Legislature voted to replace the previous two statues with Chief Standing Bear and Willa Cather. Her statue will join the Chief at a later date.