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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  284 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 20th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 8th 2008)
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Susan
Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Charlotte
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mark Knuth
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
...more
Jane
Oct 18, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Kelly
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
Paula
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Teagan D
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
William
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Bill
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lorna
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not the history we learned in school. Glad the truth is now out. Not proud to be a white American.
Tanja
Another Nebraska Reading Challenge book and so worth the time! Author Joe Starita wrote this biography about Standing Bear in a pleasant narrative which makes this book easy and interesting to read. Especially Standing Bear’s words during the court trial held by Judge Elmer Dundy in Omaha, NE, moved me to tears. They hold true even today with all of our racial conflicts: “My 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 bl ...more
Amy
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Wow. This book was heart-breaking to read. It's heartbreaking to read about the treatment of different Native American tribes, but beautiful to learn about their culture and this tribe's deep DEEP attachment to the land. The story traces the journey of the Ponca tribe and one of their chiefs, Standing Bear, as they fight for the right to stay on the land that they owned and had deeds to. What's maddening is that while some of the mistreatment is due to cruelty...so much of it is also due to inep ...more
Joan
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chief Standing Bear presided over the Ponca Tribe, whose ancestral homelands were along the Niobrara River in Nebraska. This well-researched and very detailed book tells the story of the Ponca, a peaceful tribe, whose livelihood included agricultural practices. The Ponca adapted to the encroachment of the white man into Indian lands by willingly assimilating and cooperating with their white neighbors. They developed their own farms and villages, built wooden homes, sent their children to school ...more
Stu
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Joe Starita's I Am a Man is a book full of real heroes: Chief Standing Bear himself, Susette (Bright Eyes) La Flesche, Thomas Henry Tibbles, Justice Elmer Dundy, and, somewhat counter-intuitively, General George Crook. To his credit, the author does not feel the need to construct villains here. The true antagonist of the story is the momentum of government policy untempered by oversight, understanding, common sense, and decency. It is at once a cautionary tale and and inspirational story, and it ...more
Steve
I really enjoyed this book about the life of Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca. Even though the Ponca's lifestyle was more adapted to peaceful coexistence with the European's then some of the more nomadic tribes, they were forced to move off of there homeland in the Niobrara River valley in Nebraska onto the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. The main focus of this book is the actions that Standing Bear took to resist this forced movement and bury is son in the Ponca's Nebraska homeland. Full of chan ...more
Watchingthewords
I had the honor of receiving a scholarship to attend the annual conference of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL). So back in September I packed my bags and headed to Omaha for a long weekend. The weather and the city were both lovely and my peers were insightful, sharp, and funny. I came back home with new ideas and new energy. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to meet a number of fantastic speakers – Lee Rainie, the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet ...more
Stephanie Robinson
Great history book about Native Americans. It follows Chief Standing Bear and his journey from his home to the reservation back to his home and the Ponca people
Peter Mayeux
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting, provocative narrative of a determined Native American who endured oppressive situations to secure original tribal lands in the Northern Plains and to win legal acknowledgement of his standing as a man with the rights of a citizen. The writing style is excellent, conveying emotional personal moments in Chief Standing Bear's struggles. Almost half of the book details the difficulties his tribe endured. There is limited discussion of the legal documents filed and all of the ...more
Marshall Parish
I really just didn't enjoy this book. It's a cool story and I'm sure other people would love it, but it's just not a style of book I enjoy. I felt like I was reading a textbook the whole time. All that aside, the book is about Standing Bear, chief of the Ponca tribe, and his struggle to get rights for his people as the government slowly took their land and moved them from place to place without any choice. The first five chapters are all just telling you about how much it sucked moving back and ...more
Dana Tuss
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book about a heartbreaking time in American history. A good time to read this -- to be reminded we are all humans.
Tracy Tibbels
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think anyone living in the midwest, Nebraska especially, should read this book. To be honest, I think this should be incorporated into our required American History readings, perhaps during high school (do they take American History in high school? can't remember).
I actually have even more cause to read it, being married into the Tibbels (formerly TibbLEs) family. While my husband's family are not the direct descendants of Suzette LaFlesche Tibbles (she and Tom Tibbles didn't have children to
...more
Rosemary
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
The crux of this book about Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska, is the ruling by Judge Elmer Dundy declaring that although Chief Standing Bear was not a citizen of the United States he was still a "person" under U.S. law. This is another account of the great suffering native people had to endure when citizens of the United States took their lands but differs from other stories in the legal significance of Chief Standing Bear's case.
Denise Mainquist
This is a very good story and it is a story that must be told. There are so many issues that we, as a country, have not managed well and are still issues we struggle with today. Who is "worthy" to be a citizen or to be within the borders. Brutality by those in authority. Government aid to the poor.

Yet, the book drags in places and tends to be academic. Stick with it and glean the critical parts. Because it's important.
Mandy
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-reads
This was the 2010 One Book, One Lincoln final selection. I was very hesitant to read it because I am not a lover of historical books. The first 2 chapters were a little slow, but once the book got into the struggles and the trials, it was somewhat like a Grisham novel. It is very hard to believe that the Native Americans were (and still are) treated so poorly. Great book for everyone to read. It will help you understand more about the early advancements in the rights of Americans.
Rhonda
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I picked this book, my book club group groaned a bit - as I'm always trying to "educate" them (even though they are very well educated already). But everyone agreed it was a great story, and Chief Standing Bear an inspirational man we could all learn from. I live in Omaha - at the very heart of this story. I am so glad I read this book!
Larry
Aug 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Had the chance to have lunch and discuss his book. We argued (healthy discussion) about general crook. He was written as a hero but throughout his career he murdered thousands of Native people. Didn't agree with the positive light crook was written in. Overall he was a nice man and knowledgable over this time of American history.
Benjamin
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A heartbreaking story of a small Indian tribe that did everything asked of it by a government that failed to live up to its obligations every step of the way. Besides the human tragedy it also delves into the legal fight that culminated in Indian rights being recognized in a US court for the first time. If you couldn't guess though, the good guys don't really win in the end.
Geoffrey
A solid history with flashes of interesting scholarship - for instance, letters written by Jefferson that revealed his true attitude toward Indians (not good) - and a wonderful central character in Standing Bear himself. The somewhat embroidered near-contemporary accounts of Standing Bear's trial actually diminish the drama of his story somewhat, but it's a good read, and important history.
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