2015 symposium

Chief Standing Bear


Brought to you by the Center for Great Plains Studies and the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs
Standing Bear

Photo courtesy the Nebraska State Historical Society






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Cooper Foundation Humanities Nebraska
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On May 14-15, 2015, plan to attend “Standing Bear and the Trail Ahead,” a two-day, interdisciplinary symposium jointly hosted by the Center for Great Plains Studies and the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. This will be an exceptional gathering of Native talent, a signal event in building consciousness and confidence in the Indian economic and cultural resurgence. Watch this web page for additional information during the next couple of months.

The Symposium will explore the status, challenges, and especially the opportunities and prospects that Native Americans and First Peoples face going forward. It is motivated by the sense that Native peoples today have new opportunities and drastically improving prospects for their futures. We expect it to be of great interest to:

  • Native opinion-makers in the Great Plains, including authors, scholars, organization leaders, tribal elders, advocates, and others
  • Indian residents of the Great Plains, including both individual residents on reservations and those living in urban areas
  • non-Native scholars, agency officials, authors, and others who professionally address or are concerned with Native issues of culture, history, jurisprudence, and economic development
  • college and graduate students, both Native and non-Native, who have curiosity about or curricula involving the issues to be discussed
  • Members of the general public interested in the future and well-being of Native Americans in the Great Plains.

Our title, “Standing Bear and the Trail Ahead,” plays off the local effort led by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, NCIA Executive Director Judi gaiashkibos, and others to create a Memorial Trail honoring Standing Bear. The Memorial Trail, a virtual experience, would follow Standing Bear’s (and the Ponca tribe’s) “removal” to Oklahoma and his unauthorized return to the Ponca homeland, where he was arrested, tried in an Omaha federal court, and famously granted the first recognition in U.S. law of Indians’ “personhood.” The relevance of Standing Bear’s story for our Symposium is that his return and vindication embody the kind of “triumph of endurance” that in a larger sense Native and First Peoples have achieved and that now places them on the threshold of renewal and revival.

“the Trail Ahead” part of our title signals that the Symposium will look broadly at the current status and future prospects of Native peoples. There has been considerable attention (as there should be) on reservation bad news, such as high diabetes rates, joblessness, alcoholism, domestic violence, and suicide. But good news deserves telling too, and our Symposium will showcase growing economic progress among Indians and the emerging Native cultural renaissance.

We see emerging evidence of the new opportunities and improving prospects in the prosperity that gaming and casinos have brought some tribes, but much more profoundly we see it in the business success of Ho-Chunk Inc. and the Winnebago tribe and in the growing entrepreneurialism the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Eastern Shawnee, and the Hoopa Valley Tribe; we see it in the developing success of the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council; we see it in the benefits brought by such landmark cases as the Osage land trust settlement; we see it in the escalating quality of Indian colleges and their students’ achievements; and perhaps most convincingly we see it in the accomplishments of Indian writers, artists, and film-makers like Sherman Alexie, Louise Erdrich, William Least Heat-Moon, Chris Eyre, and others. Indeed, we may be at the front edge of a Native and First Peoples renaissance of historic proportions.

An impressive number of the individuals contributing to this renaissance will appear at the Symposium, including:

    • Author Sherman Alexie
    • National TV correspondent Hattie Kauffman
    • Entrepreneur Lance Morgan
    • Attorney Wilson Pipestem
    • Public official Ponka-We Victors
    • Buffalo Council president Jim Stone
    • Scholar-advocates Winona LaDuke, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, James Riding In, and Robert Miller

The event will conclude with an exceptional and powerful concert by Buffy Sainte-Marie. An event not to be missed!

More information about the Symposium, the Center's 41st annual Great Plains Symposium, will be available on this page later this year. If you have immediate questions, email the Center. More information on the Chief Standing Bear Breakfast can be found at the Commission's website.

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The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs (NCIA) will hold its 2015 Chief Standing Bear Breakfast as part of the Symposium. This will be the start of a new biennial format for the Breakfast that will allow more time and energy to be focused on bringing bigger and better events to program attendees. The 2015 event will still feature the Breakfast Commemoration, but will also bring speakers, performances and discussion to Lincoln.

The NCIA is the state liaison between the four headquarter tribes of the Omaha, Ponca, Santee Sioux and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska. It helps ensure the sovereignty of both tribal and state governments is recognized and acted upon in a true government-to-government relationship. The commission also serves all off-reservation Indian constituencies in the State of Nebraska. All goals of the commission are accomplished through advocacy, education and promotion of legislation.

If you have immediate questions, email the Center. More information on the Chief Standing Bear Breakfast can be found at the Commission's website

Featured presenters

Sherman Alexie

Native American poet, novelist, performer and filmmaker, National Book Award winner, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Business of Fancydancing, and writer of Smoke Signals and other films, of Spokane, Coeur d’Alene, and Flathead descent

Hattie Kauffman

Former CBS and ABC correspondent (and first Native American national correspondent), author of memoir Falling into Place, enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe

Wilson Pipestem

Managing Partner and co-founder of Ietan Consulting, which is “dedicated to advocacy on behalf of Indians and tribes”; enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Native American songwriter and folk singer, former “Sesame Street” regular, member of Cree Nation

Speakers and Presenters

Margaret Jacobs, Chancellor’s Professor of History, UNL, Bancroft Prize winner for White Mother to a Dark Race

Winona LaDuke, author, Founding Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg

Christine Lesiak, NET Television, producer, director, and writer of Standing Bear’s Footsteps

Stew Magnuson, journalist and author of The Death of Raymond Yellow Thunder

Robert Miller, author of Reservation “Capitalism:” Economic Development in Indian Country, enrolled citizen of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe

Lance Morgan, CEO, Ho-Chunk, enrolled member, Winnebago Tribe

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author of The Great Sioux Nation

James Riding In, author and scholar, Arizona State University, enrolled member of Pawnee Tribe

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, author of Standing Bear of the Ponca, enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

Joe Starita, author, I Am A Man: Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice

Jim Stone, Executive Director, Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux

Ponka-We Victors, member of Kansas House of Representatives, enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma and the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona

Roger Welsch, Nebraska author, humorist, folklorist, and commentator, adopted member of Omaha Tribe and Tribal Friend of Pawnee

David Wishart, Professor Geography, UNL, author of An Unspeakable Sadness