The Postal Service dedicated a stamp to Chief Standing Bear at a ceremony on May 12 near a sculpture of the Native American civil rights icon in Lincoln, NE.
Standing Bear is celebrated by Americans of all backgrounds for winning a landmark court ruling in 1879 that determined that Native American are persons under the law with an inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Although the United States was founded on the principle that ‘all men are created equal,’ it took our country far too long to recognize the humanity in many of its people — including the American Indians who lived in these lands for thousands of years,” said Anton G. Hajjar, vice chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, who spoke at the ceremony.
Standing Bear (circa 1829-1908) was a member of the Ponca tribe, which was forcibly relocated in 1877 from their home in what is now Nebraska to land in what is now Oklahoma.
More than 100 Ponca, including Standing Bear’s son, died from disease and hunger after the forced removal.
Standing Bear was arrested by the U.S. Army in 1879 when he attempted to return to Nebraska to honor his son’s dying wish to be buried in the tribe’s homeland.
In the legal challenge that resulted from his arrest, Standing Bear v. Crook, Judge Elmer Dundy ruled on May 12, 1879, that an Indian was a person under the common understanding of the word and ordered Standing Bear and his fellow Ponca to be released.
A congressional investigation concluded that the government was wrong to force the Ponca to move. Congress passed legislation in 1881 to allow the Ponca the choice of where to live and compensation for land and other losses.
Joining Hajjar were Candace Schmidt, chairwoman of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, and Judi M. gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.
Derry Noyes, an art director for USPS, designed the stamp, which features a portrait of Chief Standing Bear by illustrator Thomas Blackshear II. The illustration is based on a photograph taken in 1887.
The Forever stamps are available in panes of 20 at Post Offices and usps.com.