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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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  378 ratings  ·  70 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 ...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, ...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.
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
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Aaron Nix
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
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
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.
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.
Selim Gamer
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Michael Olson
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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
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.
Kate Boisvert
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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.
Sharolyn Stauffer
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommend highly for Native American policy and history in the late 19th century. A sobering and important story that should be told in American history courses.
I wish that I'd know this story before. Standing Bear was the first American Indian who took a case to federal court and actually won!
Hector E. Bousson
A profound history often forgotten by our cultural memory. A must read!
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.
Jul 16, 2019 added it
Excellent Reading
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.
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 ...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 ...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 ...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
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