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In 1877, Chief Standing Bear's Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe's own Trail of Tears. "I Am a Man" chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial gr In 1877, Chief Standing Bear's Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe's own Trail of Tears. "I Am a Man" chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial ground. Along the way, it examines the complex relationship between the United States government and the small, peaceful tribe and the legal consequences of land swaps and broken treaties, while never losing sight of the heartbreaking journey the Ponca endured. It is a story of survival---of a people left for dead who arose from the ashes of injustice, disease, neglect, starvation, humiliation, and termination. On another level, it is a story of life and death, despair and fortitude, freedom and patriotism. A story of Christian kindness and bureaucratic evil. And it is a story of hope---of a people still among us today, painstakingly preserving a cultural identity that had sustained them for centuries before their encounter with Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1804. Before it ends, Standing Bear's long journey home also explores fundamental issues of citizenship, constitutional protection, cultural identity, and the nature of democracy---issues that continue to resonate loudly in twenty-first-century America. It is a story that questions whether native sovereignty, tribal-based societies, and cultural survival are compatible with American democracy. Standing Bear successfully used habeas corpus, the only liberty included in the original text of the Constitution, to gain access to a federal court and ultimately his freedom. This account aptly illuminates how the nation's delicate system of checks and balances worked almost exactly as the Founding Fathers envisioned, a system arguably out of whack and under siege today. Joe Starita's well-researched and insightful account reads like historical fiction as his careful characterizations and vivid descriptions bring this piece of American history brilliantly to life.


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In 1877, Chief Standing Bear's Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe's own Trail of Tears. "I Am a Man" chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial gr In 1877, Chief Standing Bear's Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe's own Trail of Tears. "I Am a Man" chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial ground. Along the way, it examines the complex relationship between the United States government and the small, peaceful tribe and the legal consequences of land swaps and broken treaties, while never losing sight of the heartbreaking journey the Ponca endured. It is a story of survival---of a people left for dead who arose from the ashes of injustice, disease, neglect, starvation, humiliation, and termination. On another level, it is a story of life and death, despair and fortitude, freedom and patriotism. A story of Christian kindness and bureaucratic evil. And it is a story of hope---of a people still among us today, painstakingly preserving a cultural identity that had sustained them for centuries before their encounter with Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1804. Before it ends, Standing Bear's long journey home also explores fundamental issues of citizenship, constitutional protection, cultural identity, and the nature of democracy---issues that continue to resonate loudly in twenty-first-century America. It is a story that questions whether native sovereignty, tribal-based societies, and cultural survival are compatible with American democracy. Standing Bear successfully used habeas corpus, the only liberty included in the original text of the Constitution, to gain access to a federal court and ultimately his freedom. This account aptly illuminates how the nation's delicate system of checks and balances worked almost exactly as the Founding Fathers envisioned, a system arguably out of whack and under siege today. Joe Starita's well-researched and insightful account reads like historical fiction as his careful characterizations and vivid descriptions bring this piece of American history brilliantly to life.

30 review for "I Am a Man": Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    It is always difficult for me to read about how Native Americans were treated by the U.S. Government. I enjoy history and being a lifelong Nebraskan, I felt this was a must read for me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Joe Starita is a Nebraska author and I have had the privilege of hearing speak regarding his well researched documentary on the life of Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe. The book chronicles the removal of the Ponca tribe from their homeland, and his 600 mile walk to return the body of his son to their sacred burial grounds. The book also chronicles his legal battle to be treated as a man, and to be granted the freedoms and rights of a citizen in this nation. While reading this book, I was Joe Starita is a Nebraska author and I have had the privilege of hearing speak regarding his well researched documentary on the life of Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe. The book chronicles the removal of the Ponca tribe from their homeland, and his 600 mile walk to return the body of his son to their sacred burial grounds. The book also chronicles his legal battle to be treated as a man, and to be granted the freedoms and rights of a citizen in this nation. While reading this book, I was struck deeply by how unfairly and disrespectfully the Native Americans were treated. And as I typed this, it struck me how ironic it is that we cal them Native Americans, but did not allow them to BE Americans in any sense of the term! In many ways, Chief Standing Bear is the Martin Luther King of the Indian nations.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brady Jones

    An excellent narrative (by my college reporting professor) that follows the life of Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca tribe, and Native Americas’ history with the growing United States. I learned a lot, including more history about my home state of Nebraska. Sometimes the transitions to vignettes of Ponca descendants seem a little random and kind of confusing in the narrative, but overall it’s a great portrait of an interesting historical figure that connects you with Standing Bear on a deeper, hum An excellent narrative (by my college reporting professor) that follows the life of Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca tribe, and Native Americas’ history with the growing United States. I learned a lot, including more history about my home state of Nebraska. Sometimes the transitions to vignettes of Ponca descendants seem a little random and kind of confusing in the narrative, but overall it’s a great portrait of an interesting historical figure that connects you with Standing Bear on a deeper, human level - even though it’s more than 100 years removed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy Sturgis

    I would give "I Am a Man" 3.5 stars if I could. This is the story of Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca leader who in 1879 won his case (Standing Bear v. Crook) in U.S. District Court, which determined that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus. Author Joe Starita does a compelling job of setting up the context of Standing Bear's -- and the Ponca people's -- character and resilience in the face of terrible experiences with the U.S. government I would give "I Am a Man" 3.5 stars if I could. This is the story of Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca leader who in 1879 won his case (Standing Bear v. Crook) in U.S. District Court, which determined that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus. Author Joe Starita does a compelling job of setting up the context of Standing Bear's -- and the Ponca people's -- character and resilience in the face of terrible experiences with the U.S. government. The book left me wanting more, however, relating to the aftermath of the decision, such as Standing Bear's travels and public appearances and the impact of the Dawes Act. That said, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in human rights and/or U.S. and Native American history. A word of warning: the professional audiobook version of this work is a great disappointment. The narrator, Armando Duran, runs roughshod over the proper names of both Native peoples -- peoples who survive and have representation today, whose heritage centers could easily have been contacted in order to verify the pronunciation of their nations' names -- and also-easily-verifiable geographic locations. One mistake is an accident; half a dozen is unprofessionalism. If a press is going to publish works of Native history, that press should also invest in narrators who treat the subject with dignity and due diligence.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Knuth

    This one moved to the top of my to-read list after I read a very brief version of Standing Bear and the Ponca's story in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It's a fascinating episode in the history of Native Americans and most of it takes place right here in Nebraska. Now that I know the story, I wonder why so few Nebraskans do and how I'd never heard it before. It culminates with a trial in Standing Bear's habeas corpus suit against General George Crook, an old Indian fighter who had arrested the c This one moved to the top of my to-read list after I read a very brief version of Standing Bear and the Ponca's story in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. It's a fascinating episode in the history of Native Americans and most of it takes place right here in Nebraska. Now that I know the story, I wonder why so few Nebraskans do and how I'd never heard it before. It culminates with a trial in Standing Bear's habeas corpus suit against General George Crook, an old Indian fighter who had arrested the chief and his small ragtag band of Ponca when they escaped from the Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where they'd been forcefully relocated, and tried to return to their traditional lands in Northeastern Nebraska. It would make a great courtroom drama. There are a lot of surprising twists to this story. One of the most interesting is where the lawyers who took up Standing Bear's cause got the idea to file suit against General Crook. (I won't reveal the answer in case you want to read it.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Nix

    This quote sums it up nicely - "I know it's important that we have our stories of George Washington and the cherry tree and Honest Abe the rail-splitter. Those are all important stories," he likes to say. "But there are some other stories worth knowing, too. What's more American than loving your country, your homeland this much? What's more American than loving your son and the traditions of your people so much that you would risk everything to honor a promise? What's more American than preferri This quote sums it up nicely - "I know it's important that we have our stories of George Washington and the cherry tree and Honest Abe the rail-splitter. Those are all important stories," he likes to say. "But there are some other stories worth knowing, too. What's more American than loving your country, your homeland this much? What's more American than loving your son and the traditions of your people so much that you would risk everything to honor a promise? What's more American than preferring death in a freedom flight home to dying slowly as a prisoner in a place you hate, a place you have no connection to? I mean, this was a man who took on the U.S. government on a different kind of battlefield – and he won. When you think about it, it's one of the best American stories we have."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Anyone with a passing knowledge of American history already knows about the shameful treatment of Native Americans by our government, but reading the horrific details always produces fresh revulsion. If you don't leave this book infuriated by what you've read, you're not doing humanity right. "I Am A Man" is the story of Chief Standing Bear, a Ponca Indian whose people were forcibly removed from their land (as the result of a stupid bureaucratic mistake, no less), promised assistance in moving an Anyone with a passing knowledge of American history already knows about the shameful treatment of Native Americans by our government, but reading the horrific details always produces fresh revulsion. If you don't leave this book infuriated by what you've read, you're not doing humanity right. "I Am A Man" is the story of Chief Standing Bear, a Ponca Indian whose people were forcibly removed from their land (as the result of a stupid bureaucratic mistake, no less), promised assistance in moving and rebuilding at the inferior location they were relocated to and then repeatedly denied it, and largely ignored in their efforts to seek redress for their grievances. Read the book (or use Google) for the details, as long as you're prepared to be disgusted. There are, despite the horrors, some heroes in this book, including Standing Bear himself -- but also white Americans who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw Ponca suffering and tried to heal it, saw the undeclared yet transparent war on Native Americans and tried to stop it. As always throughout history, these progressives were a minority when they began their efforts, but became a majority -- or at least won the support of a critical mass -- through their tireless advocacy for liberty and justice for all. The heroes include Thomas Tibbles, a muckraking journalist who brought the plight of the Poncas to a national audience. They include General George Crook, who was charged with the responsibility of imprisoning Standing Bear for his refusal to follow orders -- yet developed the legal theory that eventually lead to CSB's release and recognition as deserving of the protection of our Constitution. And the heroes include white settlers who provided food and shelter to Standing Bear and his people as they traveled 600 miles in the dead of winter to return to their homeland. CSB said that not once was he refused when he asked for help from individual people ... despite the fact that the government of those helpers was enacting policies that would decimate the Ponca. It's an interesting lesson in the reality that distance from suffering allows (too many) people to tolerate it, when they never would if the suffering was happening right in front of them -- comparable to today's acceptance of the forced separation of migrant children from their parents by our government by many people who would (hopefully) recoil in horror if they saw a family torn apart in their presence. Ultimately IAAM is about Chief Standing Bear's fight for legal standing and the protections of the U.S. Constitution, which until 1879 had never recognized Natives Americans as human beings. Standing Bear's case resulted in his recognition as a “person” under the law, entitled to the rights and protections of the Constitution. He and his people were, eventually, allowed to return to a (much smaller) piece of the land from which they had been forced. His was an important case, which resolved his particular complaint in his favor. It did not, unfortunately, do much to remedy the larger problem of the U.S. government's treatment of Native Americans throughout the generations, which has still not been remedied to this day.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

    I admit that I don't know much about Native American history, so this book was all new material for me. The primary thought that went through my mind over and over while reading this book was "gaslighting!" It is appalling and disgusting how the American government treated the Native Americans, and in particular, the tribe that was the focus of this book. Standing Bear and the Ponca Tribe did everything they could to stick to the treaties they agreed to with the US government, but time and time I admit that I don't know much about Native American history, so this book was all new material for me. The primary thought that went through my mind over and over while reading this book was "gaslighting!" It is appalling and disgusting how the American government treated the Native Americans, and in particular, the tribe that was the focus of this book. Standing Bear and the Ponca Tribe did everything they could to stick to the treaties they agreed to with the US government, but time and time again the government screwed them over. It was hard to read and not a part of this country's legacy to be proud of.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Grunke gardner

    Author Joe Starita was one of my professors in college and I could clearly hear his voice in this book. The story of Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe is gut-wrenching, and for the most part Joe tells it well. I do not know much about Native American history, and this book was truly eye-opening to me. In some parts of the book Joe spends an inordinate amount of time summarizing and trying to provide a broader perspective, but it got repetitive, which was a disappointment to me. Overall, though, Author Joe Starita was one of my professors in college and I could clearly hear his voice in this book. The story of Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe is gut-wrenching, and for the most part Joe tells it well. I do not know much about Native American history, and this book was truly eye-opening to me. In some parts of the book Joe spends an inordinate amount of time summarizing and trying to provide a broader perspective, but it got repetitive, which was a disappointment to me. Overall, though, I would recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This exhaustively researched book reminds us of an important piece of history, the story of Chief Standing Bear and his efforts to get any kind of a fair shake from the U.S. government. It's a sad story. I found the book to be somewhat dry, with its "just the facts" style. (A PBS documentary would have been an equally appropriate and perhaps more engaging medium for the story.) Standing Bear's story is important in legal history, but I would have been more interested in a richer exploration of t This exhaustively researched book reminds us of an important piece of history, the story of Chief Standing Bear and his efforts to get any kind of a fair shake from the U.S. government. It's a sad story. I found the book to be somewhat dry, with its "just the facts" style. (A PBS documentary would have been an equally appropriate and perhaps more engaging medium for the story.) Standing Bear's story is important in legal history, but I would have been more interested in a richer exploration of the intersection between cultures.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This is the One Book One Lincoln choice for this year. It is the story of Ponca chief, Standing Bear's struggle to return to his homeland after the government forced the tribe to move to Indian Territory. An especially interesting point for me - one of his daughters died on the trip and is buried near my home town. He sued the government on 14th amendment grounds and the trial boiled down to the question of whether or not Native Americans were "persons" in the sight of the government! Hence the st This is the One Book One Lincoln choice for this year. It is the story of Ponca chief, Standing Bear's struggle to return to his homeland after the government forced the tribe to move to Indian Territory. An especially interesting point for me - one of his daughters died on the trip and is buried near my home town. He sued the government on 14th amendment grounds and the trial boiled down to the question of whether or not Native Americans were "persons" in the sight of the government! Hence the statement "I am a Man".

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lanae

    As a Nebraskan, I feel upset with myself for not knowing more about Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe. I learned quite a bit through this book and I'm better able to appreciate the role that writers have in influencing history. My one criticism is that Joe Starita changes writing styles throughout since he is influenced by both journalism and academia. As a Nebraskan, I feel upset with myself for not knowing more about Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe. I learned quite a bit through this book and I'm better able to appreciate the role that writers have in influencing history. My one criticism is that Joe Starita changes writing styles throughout since he is influenced by both journalism and academia.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    I'm moving this book to the top of my TBR pile after hearing him speak this morning at the ARSL Conference in Omaha, NE. An amazing story teller who left the 450+ attendees spellbound with this story. I'm moving this book to the top of my TBR pile after hearing him speak this morning at the ARSL Conference in Omaha, NE. An amazing story teller who left the 450+ attendees spellbound with this story.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Justin Baker

    A powerful biography about one Ponca Chief and his love for his homeland during the mass Native American removal of the 1800s. The book touches on the role he played in opening up the question of Native American equality on legal and moral grounds during a crucial turning point in Native relations.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Teagan E

    A really enlightening and full account of the Ponca people and Standing Bear in the struggle to find their place in a new United States. I thought it was a great read, and enhanced my knowledge of a known but glossed-over part of our past as a country of mixed cultures.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gena

    Looking for an appropriate accompaniment to a driving trip from Wyoming to Montana and across South Dakota, we stumbled upon this history of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and we couldn't have been happier. Starita is a journalist and the history moves briskly and engagingly. The story of the displacing of the Ponca Tribe, which turns out to include the legal battle to grant Native Americans civil rights, was surprisingly timely: a President who didn't win a majority of the popular vote, promises m Looking for an appropriate accompaniment to a driving trip from Wyoming to Montana and across South Dakota, we stumbled upon this history of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and we couldn't have been happier. Starita is a journalist and the history moves briskly and engagingly. The story of the displacing of the Ponca Tribe, which turns out to include the legal battle to grant Native Americans civil rights, was surprisingly timely: a President who didn't win a majority of the popular vote, promises made to minority groups and then broken, the disenfranchisement of minorities to benefit majority white interests. Did you know that while the 14th and 15th Amendment grant voting rights to African Americans and the 19th Amendment grants voting rights to women, Native Americans didn't become citizens until an Act of Congress in 1904 and didn't get voting rights in all states until the 1960s? Unbelievable!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Anne Vandenbrink

    Incredible story of Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca Tribe. They were forced from their Northern Nebraska land in 1877 to a reservation in Oklahoma. They lost many members on the 'trail of tears' and even more on the new, inhospitable reservation. Government promises of housing, farm implements, livestock and food were never delivered. Standing Bear and a group of followers walked back north in 1879 in an attempt to reclaim their land and save their people. A reporter, Thomas Tibbles took up th Incredible story of Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca Tribe. They were forced from their Northern Nebraska land in 1877 to a reservation in Oklahoma. They lost many members on the 'trail of tears' and even more on the new, inhospitable reservation. Government promises of housing, farm implements, livestock and food were never delivered. Standing Bear and a group of followers walked back north in 1879 in an attempt to reclaim their land and save their people. A reporter, Thomas Tibbles took up their plight and spread their story far and wide. A legal team of scholarly lawyers and businessmen were assembled to take the case to the government. It took two years for the government to decide that Indians were a free people. It took another two years and the Dawes Act to protect "the property of the natives".

  18. 4 out of 5

    Twee

    “That hand is not the color of yours, but if i pierce if, 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. I am a man.” What a journey Standing Bear and his tribe had been through reclaiming for what were rightfully theirs. There are quite a few books that made me sobbed and this is one of them. Police brutality and the government’s ignorance of its people struggles as well as its abusive of powers towards the w “That hand is not the color of yours, but if i pierce if, 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. I am a man.” What a journey Standing Bear and his tribe had been through reclaiming for what were rightfully theirs. There are quite a few books that made me sobbed and this is one of them. Police brutality and the government’s ignorance of its people struggles as well as its abusive of powers towards the weaks are what not only do you see right now but also way back in the 1800s, which was highlighted in this book! Highly recommend!

  19. 4 out of 5

    William

    I always find it a challenge to not get ridiculously angry reading text of how we treated native Americans in the 19th century, while pretending to be superior. The Ponca Indians deserved better than our pathetic administration at the time. This book includes our treatment of the Ponca, while focusing on Chief Standing Bear, the unintentional father of civil rights in the United States.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    I first learned about Chief Standing Bear, in a documentary that aired on Nebraska Public Television many years ago. This book was very interesting because it expands on what was shown in the television production. The documentary/show ends with Standing Bear along the Niobrara River where he buries his son. This, however, is not where the story actually ends.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Selim Gamer

    I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I would have given it five stars but for the fact that it only presented the Ponca Indian side. One could easily get the impression that no Indians ever killed or stole. I suggest that the reader also look for other views. Nevertheless, it is very well written and I would highly recommend it. I learned very much from it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Autumn

    As a direct descendent of Standing Bear (3x great granddaughter), I couldn’t put this book down. As I thought I knew the whole story of the Ponca removal and of my 3x great grandfather, I did not, and I learned so much in just the 3 days I finished it. Emotional and heartbreaking. Well written by Joe Starita.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    They were not considered as worthy as former slaves---white man can be very bad man! Powerful. Anyone wanting to follow the path of our nation should read this. Fascinating that it occurred less than 140 years ago.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael Olson

    “That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also fell pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both.” - Standing Bear

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael Vincent

    A well-researched and written book which gives the important and hardship laden plight of Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca tribe of Nebraska. He is important as a civil rights leader who, along with the help of several others, fought for, and won, rights for native Americans in the U S.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Candorman

    Mr. Starita has done a great service to American history by producing this intricately detailed and scrupulously researched recount of a dark blot upon what is so cavalierly and blindly described as "the proud history of this great nation." Mr. Starita has done a great service to American history by producing this intricately detailed and scrupulously researched recount of a dark blot upon what is so cavalierly and blindly described as "the proud history of this great nation."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lorna

    Not the history we learned in school. Glad the truth is now out. Not proud to be a white American.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kate Boisvert

    What a heart breaking narrative of Chief Standing Bear and the Sacred Head people. It disgusts me that we are still abusing our native brothers and sisters.

  29. 5 out of 5

    King'Samson David Samson Dawit

    Chief Joe in his own words is really great! So sad and touching and moving much like Dover's Great Native American Speeches. Chief Joe in his own words is really great! So sad and touching and moving much like Dover's Great Native American Speeches.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Doug

    Excellent Reading

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