The land around the mouth of the Niobrara in northeastern Nebraska is the homeland of the Ponca Tribe. In 1868 the federal government signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie that transferred this land to the Sioux. The Poncas were forcibly removed to Indian Territory (present White Eagle, Oklahoma) in 1877. Many Poncas died during this 500-mile journey by foot.
In January 1879 Chief Standing Bear and his small band left Indian Territory to return to Nebraska to bury his son. They were imprisoned at Fort Omaha. Newspaperman Thomas Tibbles made known their plight, resulting in the 1879 trial of Standing Bear vs. Crook, where the court decided that American Indians were "persons within the meaning of the law."
When Standing Bear addressed the court, he held out his hand and spoke these words: "This hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours....God made us both."
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Nebraska State Historical Society
Standing Bear Lake, 138th and Fort Streets