Standing Bear's Quest for Freedom


Standing Bear's Quest for Freedom

The First Civil Rights Victory for Native Americans

Second Edition

Lawrence A. Dwyer
Foreword to the Bison Books edition by Judi M. gaiashkibos

234 pages
26 photographs, 2 maps, index


November 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2022


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2023 Nebraska Book Award

Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Nation faced arrest for leaving the U.S. government’s reservation, without its permission, for the love of his son and his people. Standing Bear fought for his freedom not through armed resistance but with bold action, strong testimony, and heartfelt eloquence. He knew he and his people had suffered a great injustice.

Standing Bear wanted the right to live and die with his family on the beloved land of his Ponca ancestors, located within the Great Plains of Nebraska. In telling his story, Standing Bear’s Quest for Freedom relates an unprecedented civil rights victory for Native Americans: for the first time, in 1879, a federal court declared a Native American to be a “person”—a human being with the right to file an action for a redress of grievances in a federal court, like every other person in the United States.

Standing Bear’s victory in Standing Bear v. Crook began a national movement of reforming Native American rights—albeit a slow one. Because of the courage and leadership of Chief Standing Bear, the pervasive spirit of indifference of most Americans toward Native Americans was disrupted by this historic decision. America would never be the same.

Author Bio

Lawrence A. Dwyer is an attorney at law in Omaha, Nebraska. He is a member of the Nebraska Bar Association and served on the board of directors of the Douglas County Historical Society. Judi M. gaiashkibos (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska/Santee Sioux) is a national leader on Native American issues and since 1995 has served as the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.


“A history involving the law, government policy, treaties, and the military could so easily get mired in technical language. This book never does. Rather, it maintains a crystal clarity, nimbleness, and focus on what matters—the people, their humanity, and what happened. . . . [Dwyer] has created a vivid picture of the events before, during, and after the trial and never loses sight of the story’s true hero, Standing Bear.”—Judi M. gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs

Table of Contents

Foreword by Judi M. gaiashkibos
1. His Name Was Standing Bear
2. Early History of the Poncas
3. The Ponca System of Law
4. Precedents for the Ponca Removal in the American System of Law
5. Treaties with the Poncas
6. The Ponca Displacement Begins
7. Journey of Sorrows
8. Standing Bear Takes Action
9. Imprisoned at Fort Omaha
10. The Interviews
11. Tibbles Assembles a Legal Team
12. The Great Writ
13. Witnesses Testify
14. The Trial’s Closing Arguments
15. Standing Bear’s Historic Speech
16. A Time for Waiting
17. The Court’s Decision
18. Standing Bear Keeps His Promise
19. Standing Bear’s Gratitude and Generosity
20. A Fire Kindled
21. Redress for Wrongs
22. The Standing Bear Decision Sets Precedent
23. A Nation Aroused from the Sin of Indifference
24. The Omaha Connection
25. Standing Bear at Peace
Discussion Questions


2023 Nebraska Book Award

Also of Interest