LINCOLN, NE – The U.S. Postal Service has honored Chief Standing Bear with a Forever stamp. In 1879, Standing Bear won a landmark court ruling that determined a Native American was a person under the law with an inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The stamp will be revealed at a first-day-of-issue event on Friday, May 12 at Centennial Mall in Lincoln, NE. Anton G. Hajjar, Vice Chairman, U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors; Candace Schmidt, Chairwoman, Ponca Tribe; and Judi M. Gaiashkibos, Executive Director, Nebraska Commission of Indian Affairs, will be in attendance at the event.
In 1877, the U.S. Army had forcibly relocated some 700 Ponca to Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) after the federal government had given away the tribe’s homeland in the Niobrara River Valley in what is now northeastern Nebraska.
In a landmark civil rights case, Standing Bear v. Crook, Standing Bear sued the government for his freedom after being arrested, along with 29 other Ponca, for attempting to return to his homeland. Lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of the detention, an unprecedented action on behalf of a Native American.
After winning the case, Standing Bear and the members of the Ponca who had followed him were allowed to return to their old Nebraska reservation along the Niobrara River.
One issue that his 1879 trial had raised was finally resolved in 1924 when Congress adopted the Indian Citizenship Act, which conferred citizenship on all Native Americans born in the United States.
The stamp features a portrait of Chief Standing Bear by illustrator Thomas Blackshear II. Blackshear created the portrait based on a photograph taken of Standing Bear in 1877 while he was in Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation of Ponca chiefs appealing to government officials for the right to return to their homeland. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp.