May/June 2009 issue
Chief Standing Bear
Celebration and Displays
On May 12 the Roman L.
Hruska U.S. Courthouse in
Omaha hosted special events
to commemorate the 130th
anniversary of United States ex
rel. Standing Bear v. Crook, 25
F. Cas. 695 (C.C.Neb. 1879).
In this historic ruling issued on May 12, 1879 by
U.S. District of Nebraska Judge Elmer S. Dundy,
Standing Bear, a Ponca chief, won the right to be
considered a person under the U.S. Constitution.
A permanent wall display conveying the story of
Chief Standing Bear was dedicated in a special
proceeding, and actors performed a reenactment
of Standing Bear's trial. The play,
Ma-Chu-Nah-Aha: I Am a Person, was written
by Mary Kathryn Nagle, a law clerk of Cherokee
The events involved numerous organizations
including the Ponca Indian Tribe of Nebraska,
Federal Practice Committee, Nebraska
Commission on Indian Affairs, and the
Nebraska Branch of the Eighth Circuit
Historical Society. Mary Kathryn Nagle, Omaha
Librarian Jeri Kay Hopkins, and Director
Roxanne Wach served on the Project
Committee. Also, working on the project were
Clerk's Office Administrative Assistant Susie
Cordero, Clerk of Court Denise Lucks, and
Deputy Clerk of Court Therese Bollerup.
The St. Louis library prepared a three panel
traveling display to commemorate this important
case. Called Chief Standing Bear: A Person
Under the Law, it debuted in the Thomas F.
Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis on May
11 outside the en banc courtroom during court
week. The display is currently located at our Kansas City Branch Library
and will travel next to our Little Rock Branch Library.