Renowned Sculptor Ben Victor's epic 10 foot bronze sculpture honoring Native civil rights icon Ponca Chief Standing Bear will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony on Lincoln, Nebraska's Centennial Mall on Sunday, October 15. The piece, which has been designated as a Nebraska 150 Legacy project, will serve as a nationally significant sculpture honoring the struggle for Native American civil rights in American.
The dedication ceremony will begin at 12:30 on Centennial Mall between P and Q streets with a performance by Native American group New Breed Singers and Dancers, followed by a 1:00 welcome from Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler and remarks by Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Native American State Senator Tom Brewer, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs Executive Director Judi gaiashkibos, artist Ben Victor and Ponca Tribal Chairman Larry Wright, Jr.
The uniquely American story of the 1879 trial of Chief Standing Bear faded from our nation's consciousness and was largely untold and untaught until the story experienced a renaissance. In the past two decades, books, art, movies and commemoration events relating the story have moved and inspired legal scholars, politicians, citizens and children across the country.
Lincoln native Don Campbell was largely unaware of the story until he learned about it from NCIA Executive Director Judi gaiashkibos in 2015. He was so moved by the story that he decided to commission a world class bronze to honor the story of the chief and his historic civil rights trial. A partnership was established between Campbell, the City of Lincoln and the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs to oversee the completion of the project.
Benjamin Victor, one of the nation's leading figurative artists, was identified as the sculptor and was commissioned to create the piece which captures the powerful image of Chief Standing Bear as he stands in a courtroom with his right hand outstretched fighting for the freedom to return to his homeland to bury his son. Standing Bear's simple, yet powerful declaration of "I Am A Man" would echo through the annals of United States history as one of the defining moments in our nations struggles for equality and civil rights.
Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs Executive Director, Judi gaiashkibos stated "The dedication of this sculpture is the culmination of my long held dream to honor the story of Standing Bear. His story is symbolic of the struggles and triumphs of so many of the First Peoples of the Great Plains as they fought for their civil rights. I hope that this sculpture will serve as a special place in the state where people can come to contemplate the story and find in their own lives meaning and motivation to honor Standing Bear's legacy of equality."
"The story of Standing Bear is an integral part of our state and national history, and this beautiful memorial will inspire many future generations to learn about his courage and determination," Mayor Beutler said. "I want thank all those responsible for bringing this world-class sculpture to Lincoln, and I encourage the public to join in the historic dedication ceremony."
The event is open to the public with a reception and refreshments hosted at the University of Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications following the event. Artist Ben Victor will be available to meet with the public, and maquettes of his sculpture will be on display for sale to support a Native American scholarship endowment.