I love to buy postage stamps celebrating underrepresented communities as a very small act of support. Each time I affix one to an envelope and post it from here in Idaho, I feel like it’s a tiny act of rebellion.
I recently purchased stamps honoring Chief Standing Bear. I had remembered him as a warrior on the battlefield; turns out, he was a warrior for civil rights and the battlefield was a courtroom.
I’m embarrassed to say I hadn't a clue as to his momentous legal accomplishment, something I will blame on my schooling rather than my memory – not an unusual circumstance given the orientation of textbooks to this day, as stories are told by history's "winners."
As November is Native American Heritage Month, I thought you might like to learn a little bit about him because what he achieved is remarkable.
Chief Standing Bear was a chief of the Ponca tribe located in what is now Nebraska. He and a band of followers were arrested and detained by the U.S. government when they left a reservation in Oklahoma to which they had been relocated; they were leaving to bury the Chief’s son, Bear Shield, in his homeland Nebraska’s Niobrara River Valley. Chief Standing Bear successfully argued before the U.S. District Court in Standing Bear v. Crook (1879) that Native Americans are persons within the meaning of the law and have a right to habeas corpus. In essence, he forced the legal system to acknowledge that Native Americans were indeed humans and entitled to legal rights and protection against illegal confinement as would any person have in this country. In the courtroom, raising his hand, Chief Standing Bear stated, “That hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a Man.”
I’ll say it again – I’m embarrassed by my ignorance of Chief Standing Bear. It seems the older I get, the only thing I’m certain of is that I really don’t know that much. I’m thankful to the U.S. Postal Service for opening my eyes with these stamps. Now I know about Chief Standing Bear, and so do you. There is a whole world of learning and unlearning waiting on the road to truth-finding and knowledge for each of us, isn’t there?
💬 Quote of the Week
"We must go beyond the arrogance of human rights. We must go beyond the ignorance of civil rights. We must step into the reality of natural rights because all of the natural world has a right to existence and we are only a small part of it. There can be no trade-off." — John Trudell, Native American poet, musician, actor, civil rights activist
💥 Quick Hits
• You are on native land - Urban Native Era creates timeless garments that increase the visibility of indigenous peoples. (I rock one of their You Are On Native Land beanies.) Site-wide 30% off for Native American Heritage Month.
• Sacajawea's Story - Looking for a great children's gift this holiday season? This graphic novel provides an indigenous telling of Sacajawea's Story? It's Her Story: Sacajawea gets a big thumbs up from my daughter and grandson who live in Sacajawea's homeland near Salmon, Idaho.
• Google makes it easier to shop Indigenous - Google has created an Indigenous-owned icon attribute that makes it easier for you to identify and shop Native-owned. This article is courtesy of Eighth Generation, which offers 100% Native-designed products from artistic jewelry to beautiful blankets and beyond.
🤔 Trivia Time
What year did Chief Standing Bear win his landmark legal case determining that Native Americans are persons within the meaning of the law with a right to habeas corpus?
Today's trivia answer can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.
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The correct answer is 1879. Each of the alternative dates represents a significant event in Native American history.
- 1890 - More than 300 Lakota people are massacred by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
- 1906 - The Antiquities Act is passed, providing that all Native American remains and cultural artifacts found on federal land are protected as property of the U.S. government.
- 1941 - Twenty-five thousand Native Americans serve in the armed forces during WWII, including the famed Navajo and Comanche "code talkers."
- 1969 - Indians of All Tribes begins its 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay; John Trudell (Quote of the Week) is spokesman for the group, broadcasting Radio Free Alcatraz.
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