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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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  316 Ratings  ·  59 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
Paperback, 258 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 8th 2008)
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Jun 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brady Jones
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mark Knuth
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Meredith Grunke gardner
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
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, ...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
Oct 18, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not the history we learned in school. Glad the truth is now out. Not proud to be a white American.
Susan Miller
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The subject of this historical work, which reads like good fiction is gentle, realistic and a strong leader. The author has an understanding of history and the constitution and brings both to bear in this story of the Ponca Indian tribe. This is a story I should have heard in school, but unfortunately what was taught was only the view from the "white" side, a government and settlers who only wanted the land and cared little for the displacement of the "wild" Indians. This story compels the reade ...more
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
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 much of it is also due to inep ...more
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Oct 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
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