"The Trial of Standing Bear" and CD:

The Partnership, and What It Means To You!


The Standing Bear story begins in 1877 when the Ponca were forced to leave their homeland in Nebraska's Niobrara Valley for Indian Territory in what is now called Oklahoma. This followed the U.S. government's pattern of removing native peoples to distant and largely unproductive land. Following the Removal, Standing Bear's young son Bear Shield died, and the chief vowed to bring him back for burial in the Ponca's tribal burial grounds.

While on the arduous journey back to Nebraska, Standing Bear and about 30 Poncas were caught and arrested by a detail of U.S. soldiers led by Gen. George Crook and held at Fort Omaha. General Crook, whose flawless military record was often conflicted by his sympathy for the treatment of native peoples by the government, enlisted the help of newspaperman Thomas Tibbles. Tibbles had lived with Indians for a year and had been inducted into the Soldier Lodge Society. He engaged public support for the Poncas and enlisted the support of local churches on their behalf. The case ended up in an Omaha court, where federal judge Elmer S. Dundy ruled for the first time that Indians are human beings with full rights under law.

II. So How Can This Fit Into My Curriculum?

Possible Unit Concepts Covered

Identity Perspectives Tradition and Change Justice Culture


Possible Curriculum Connections

American History Nebraska History Judicial System Native American rights

Human Rights Masks and Mask-Making Opera Native American Music

Native American Cultures Art depicting Native Americans Creative Writing

Persona Writing Current Events Omaha History



III. What Are The Opportunities for Me And My Students?


1. The Writing Workshop (designed for students)

Jane Hill of Opera Omaha has agreed to come into three CD classrooms per participating school district to hold a creative writing workshop based on the story and the characters in "The Trial of Standing Bear."

In these workshops, students will become acquainted with the story of Standing Bear and the trial. They will then choose one character from the story to research and "become". Each student will assume the identity of one of the characters and do persona writing.

These writings will then be shared electronically with students at other sites and posted on student constructed web pages. At Confernet 2000, these students will take part "in character" in on-line chats and debates. Jane is planning to meet at least twice with these students - once to present the lesson in person and later to follow up via ACTV technology.

Students in grades 5-12 are eligible to take part in this activity.

Writing workshops can be scheduled anytime between Sept. 13-30 or during the week of October 18. Please contact your site coordinator with a specific day and time you want the workshop and a brief description for Jane of how this activity will fit into what is being taught during this time.

The deadline for signing up for this activity is Thursday, Sept. 9.

2. Mask-Making Workshop (designed for teachers)

Christine Cook, a scenic and theater design artist for the Green Fools Theater Company in Calgary, Canada, will be presenting a teacher workshop for CD'ers and ATI'ers entitled "Mask making as Cultural Expression". This workshop's content can be linked to "The Trial of Standing Bear" or to any unit dealing with identity through masks.

Christine's workshop will consist of a slide show of masks from various cultures, a discussion of the role of masks in Native cultures, and an opportunity for participants to take part in a personal mask-making activity using "found objects" in which participants will represent their own "culture" or "clan". Teachers will then be able to go back into their classrooms and recreate the experience for their students.

• Details

The workshop will be 4 hours in length. To accommodate all of our districts, this mask making workshop will be held in two different locations: in Grand Island and in Omaha.

• The date for the Grand Island workshops is Saturday, Oct. 9.

The workshop session will accommodate a maximum of 26 participants and will run from 8 am - noon. A second workshop session that day will be held from 1 - 5 pm if needed. All CD'ers, ATI'ers, and partners are welcome to attend this workshop!

• The date for the Omaha workshop is Saturday, Nov. 13.

The workshop session will accommodate a maximum of 26 participants and will run from 8 am - noon. A second workshop session that day will be held from 1-5 pm if needed. All CD'ers, ATI'ers, and partners are welcome to attend this workshop.

• Payment

CD participants and partners attending the half day workshop will receive payment for one full non-contract day ($75.00). Mileage will not be paid nor will lunch be served. ATI participants are encouraged to attend, but no stipend or mileage will be paid.

The morning workshop will be filled first with first come, first served. After 26 places are filled, additional participants will fill in the afternoon spots. So register early!

3. The Performance

•Two student performances of "The Trial of Standing Bear" will be held this fall -- one in Grand Island and one in Omaha.

•The performance in Omaha will be held on Thursday, November 4. Times will be announced soon. This performance will be for OPS, Nebraska City, Winnebago, and Westside students.

•The Grand Island performance will be held the afternoon of Friday, November 5 and will be for Grand Island and Lexington students.

•CD will pay the cost of buses to transport students to the performances.

•CD suggests that students who attend the performance should have been exposed to the story of "The Trial of Standing Bear" in class or have taken part in either the writing workshop or a mask making activity. This will enrich the experience of seeing the performance.

4. Other Possible Opportunities

•Website creation by teachers and students

Website links available for research

Creative Writing Activities based on "The Trial of Standing Bear"

• Connections to Ponca and Omaha tribal elders via video conferencing

• Native American music links

• Meet the composer of the opera

• Performance by the Winnebago Drum Circle (??)

• Art links to the Joslyn Art Museum

• Participation in Confernet 2000

Photos from the Omaha workshop performance of "The Trial of Standing Bear"



Print out the Interest Sheet, fill it out and indicate what activities you and your students would like to participate in, and give it to your site coordinator ASAP!