The story of Standing Bear’s trial is celebrated in the region as a story of courtroom triumph and the recognition of Indians as persons under U.S. law. The story of the removal and eventual return of the Ponca people that preceded the trial is a lesser-known story.
A new book titled “The Long Struggle: Standing Bear and the Ponca” follows the Ponca Tribe’s tragic forced removal from its Nebraska homeland in 1877 to “Indian Territory” (Oklahoma) and Ponca Chief Standing Bear’s extraordinary return to Nebraska with a small band of followers.
Author Kaci Nash, a research associate at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, chronicles the horrific weather, difficult travel, disease, and death suffered by the Ponca during their removal.
She draws on participants’ accounts, local newspaper stories, and other sources to bring this story to life. Standing Bear’s courageous return and arrest provoked an historic federal trial in Omaha, one that led to that groundbreaking decision when Indians were recognized as fully deserving of habeas corpus protection. Infused with one man’s determination to take a stand, The Long Struggle examines a significant turning point in American history.
Joe Starita, author of I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice says in the book's forward says: "Relying on a rich trove of primary source documents, Nash meticulously cobbles together not only a portrait of the many injustices done to Native people, but also a riveting portrait of what happens when two vastly different cultures unwittingly collide along the salt flats and river banks of eastern Nebraska and Kansas."
Nash is currently working as the project manager of the digital project, O Say Can You See: Early Washington, D.C., Law & Family. She holds a Master's Degree in History from UNL.