Standing Bear’s Footsteps

Posted By Paul G September 18th, 2012 Last Updated on: September 18th, 2012

Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT) proudly announces the release of a new documentary that recounts the remarkable journey of legendary warrior Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Nation, who fought injustice not with guns and arrows—but with words. Standing Bear’s Footsteps is available to Public Television
stations via the PBS National Program Service (NPS) on Monday, October 15, 2012, at 10 p.m. ET. A production of NET Television (Nebraska’s Public Television network) for NAPT and PBS, Standing Bear’s Footsteps tells the story of the Ponca Nation’s exile from Nebraska to the malaria-infested plains of Indian Territory in present-day
Oklahoma. After the banishment, to honor his dying son’s last wish to be buried in his homeland, Chief Standing Bear and  his small clan set-off on a frigid, six-hundred-mile journey back to their former home. En-route, they were arrested and imprisoned at Fort Omaha for leaving the Reservation. Standing Bear and his starving band were about to be sent back to “death country” when a remarkable series of events unfolded.

A reporter from the Omaha Daily Herald broke the story and Standing Bear was suddenly at the center of a storm of controversy. Though he spoke no English, the Chief’s eloquence attracted powerful allies—including the famous army general who had arrested him. If he could prove he was a person in the eyes of the law, Standing Bear could return to his Nebraska homeland. In May of 1879, Standing Bear sued the U.S. government for his freedom. His courtroom trial ended with a plea directly to the judge. “My hand is not the same color as yours. If I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you too will feel pain. The blood that flows will be the same color. I am a man. The same God made us both.” The trial of Standing Bear sparked a national debate. Who were the Indians? Were they savages or human beings? Did they have the same rights as any immigrant? “This story turns the classic western upside down,” said Joe Starita, author of I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice. “This is a man who personifies courage, perseverance, fortitude, love of family and love of homeland. The irony is not only was he not considered an American, he wasn’t even considered a person.”

This 60-minute, high-definition documentary interweaves storytellers, re-creations and present-day scenes to explore a little-known chapter in American history. NET Television producer/director Christine Lesiak says, “The film has much to say about present-day issues of human rights and what it means to be an American. I was amazed to learn that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted citizenship to anyone born in the United States—except the Indians. And it wasn’t until 1924 that Native Americans were actually granted citizenship. This whole debate started with a father who wanted only to keep a promise.”

Standing Bear's Footsteps

Chief Standing Bear and Family.
Images from the Nebraska State Historical Society

“Today we are using the legal process to define who we are,” stated Judi gaiashkibos (Ponca) who served as the principal consultant on the film and is the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. “The law defines who we are as human beings, especially for Indians. People have to be empowered with the knowledge of themselves. We have to beat them at their own game. And Standing Bear was one of the first to do just that!”

To inquire about broadcasts in your area, please visit www.pbs.org/stationfinder.

Watch Trailer

About NAPT
Native American Public Telecommunications, Inc. (NAPT), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which receives major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, shares Native stories with the world through support of the creation, promotion and distribution of Native media. Founded in 1977, through various media—Public Television, Public Radio and the Internet—NAPT brings awareness of Indian and Alaska Native issues. NAPT operates VisionMaker, the premier source for quality Native American educational and home videos. All aspects of our programs encourage the involvement of young people to learn more about careers in the media—to be the next generation of storytellers. NAPT is located at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. NAPT offers student employment, internships and fellowships. Reaching the general
public and the global market is the ultimate goal for the dissemination of Native-produced media.

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Eileen Ryan

We should petition President Obama to declare a national holiday for ALL Native Americans. How about, oh, say May 12. That sounds like a good day to honor The First PEOPLE. Chief Standing Bear was the founder of Native American Civil Rights long before Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. I revere Dr. King for all the great work he has done for African- Americans. Now People, Please let’s Honor and Revere The Greatest Native American, CHIEF STANDING BEAR. STAND UP FOR STANDING BEAR. Have a nice day. Judi, I’m still here and not giving up. We know who the greatest Chief was,is ,and always will be. Aho! Eileen Ryan “Machu-Dun”.

mike drena

having to prove in a court of law that you are a person/human being…….wow

tobias grant

This is where I work and this story is a good one. I even won the Chief Standing Bear scholarship a few years ago! This film is a remake. the first film about Chief Standing Bear was filmed in the 80’s. My grandfather founded NAPT and I remember when they were working on the original film about Chief Standing Bear. If you don’t know the story check out the DVD to find more information about Chief Standing Bear’s awesome story!

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