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
Cherokee Word for Water movie poster

The movie showings at the Ross are free and open to the public, you do not need to register to attend these screenings.

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Registration is now open for the 2015 Great Plains Symposium, an event that will bring several important figures in the current Native American economic and cultural renewal.

The Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs have teamed up to bring this exceptional gathering of Native American talent to Lincoln, Neb., on May 14-15. The 2015 Great Plains Symposium “Standing Bear and the Trail Ahead” will explore the status, challenges, and especially the opportunities and prospects that Native Americans and First Peoples face going forward. 

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

* * *

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

Beatty Brasch, Executive Director, Center for People in Need>

Moses Brings Plenty, actor, lead in “Cherokee Word for Water”

Judi gaiashkibos, Exec. Dir., Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs

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

Kaci Nash, research associate and project manager, Center for Digital Research in the Humanities

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author of The Great Sioux Nation

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

Danelle Smith, Partner-Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP

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

Larry Wright, Sr., Director of Northern Ponca Buffalo Programs


Download printable program >
Thursday, May 14, 2015

Morning, Morrill Hall: Youth events with Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, St. Augustine Dance Troupe

1 - 2:30 p.m. | Ross Theater: "The Cherokee Word for Water" (film) and talkback with Moses Brings Plenty

3 - 4:30 p.m. | Ross Theater: "Standing Bear's Footsteps" (film) and talkback with Joe Starita and Christine Lesiak

5:30 - 7 p.m. | Van Brundt Visitors Center: College of Arts & Sciences' Opening Reception, introduction by Rick Edwards, Judi gaiashkibos

7:30 p.m. | Kimball Recital Hall: Sherman Alexie

Friday, May 15, 2015

8 - 10 a.m. | Embassy Suites Ballroom: Standing Bear Breakfast with Hattie Kauffman

10:15 - 11:45 a.m. | various locations: Concurrent sessions
       1. Lied Commons: "The Trail Ahead for Tribal Buffalo Herds" - Jim Stone and others
       2. TBD: "Removal and Return" - David Wishart, Margaret Jacobs
       3. Steinart Room: "Building the Standing Bear Memorial Trail" - Kaci Nash, Joe Starita
       4. TBD: Session with Cami Goldhammer

12 - 1:30 p.m., Embassy Suites Ballroom:
 Luncheon honoring tribal leaders with Wilson Pipestem

1:45 - 3:15 p.m. | various locations: Concurrent sessions
       4. TBD: "The Path Forward for Native Women" - Ponka-We Victors, Danelle Smith, Judi gaiashkibos
       5. Steinart Room: "Native Resources for Indian Futures"
       Winona LaDuke
       Robert Miller, "Building Sustainable Economies and Reservations"
       6. Lied Commons: "Returning Lands for Repatriation and Cultural Empowerment" - Roger Welsch, James Riding In

3:30 - 4:30 p.m. | various locations: Concurrent sessions
       7. Steinart Room/Lied Center: "Breaking the Silence on Wounded Knee" - Stew Magnuson, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Beatty Brasch
       8. TBD: "Celebrating the Ho-Chunk Story" - Lance Morgan

4 - 5:30 p.m. | Lied Commons: "Many Stories, Many Voices" - multiple authors and their books

7:30 p.m. | Kimball Recital Hall: Buffy Sainte-Marie concert

This program is not final and may change before the symposium date

Travel, hotels and parking

Travel: For those flying in to Omaha who require transportation to Lincoln, contact OMALiNK for shuttle information and pricing. For those flying into Lincoln, many of the surrounding hotels have free airport shuttles. Contact your hotel about shuttles.

Hotels: A block of rooms has been reserved at the Hilton Garden Inn at a special rate. Use this link to book rooms in this block until April 14. Other hotels within walking distance of Symposium venues include the Cornhusker Marriott and the Courtyard Lincoln Downtown. Due to a large event taking place at the same time as the Symposium, please book your room early.

Parking: See the map for nearby city parking garages. Daily maximum rates are $9.