Statue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol

Statue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol
© Greg Nash

A statue of Chief Standing Bear, a Native American civil rights icon from Nebraska, will be unveiled on Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol.

Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerSenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Female lawmakers make bipartisan push for more women in politics at All In Together gala MORE (R-Neb.) and Rep. Adrian SmithAdrian Michael SmithRural broadband in jeopardy unless Congress fixes taxing problem Statue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol Democrats struggle with repeal of key Trump tax provision MORE (R-Neb.) tweeted on Wednesday morning that the event had brought a number of prominent Nebraskans to the Capitol. The guests attended a special breakfast ahead of the unveiling. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is also expected to attend the ceremony.

“Chief Standing Bear, whose famous declaration of 'I am a man' helped secure civil rights for Native Americans, will be honored at the U.S. Capitol today,” Fischer tweeted.

Chief Standing Bear and his tribe, the Ponca, were forced to leave their home in Nebraska in 1877 for Indian Territory 500 miles away in what is now Oklahoma. Chief Standing Bear’s son died, and to bury him, many of the Ponca returned to their Nebraska reservation, where they were taken into custody by the U.S. Army.

ADVERTISEMENT

Chief Standing Bear successfully sued for his freedom in Standing Bear v. Crook, becoming the first indigenous person to speak before a U.S. federal court in 1879.

Katie Brossy, senior counsel in Akin Gump’s American Indian law and policy practice, led the firm’s pro bono representation of the Chief Standing Bear Trail Foundation, which pushed to get the statue in the halls of Congress. The effort was personal to Brossy, a member of the Ponca tribe.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Being involved in an effort like this is deeply meaningful to me,” Brossy said in a press release. “Chief Standing Bear is an admired civil rights leader with a story that resonates far beyond our tribe. I am immensely proud to have played a role in securing a place for his statue in the United States Capitol, where his legacy of equality can be remembered.” 

Ricketts signed a bill in April 2018 to replace both of Nebraska’s statues in Statuary Hall at the Capitol, in which each state has two statues honoring significant figures.

Nebraska had been represented by former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic nominee for president, and former Secretary of Education Julius Sterling Morton since 1937.