When Don Campbell and Judi gaiashkibos first met, neither one of them could have imagined how impactful their friendship would become.
gaiashkibos was elected to Doane’s Board of Trustees in 2012, which is how she first met Campbell, who has served on Doane’s Board since 2011. gaishkibos is the Executive Director for the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs while Campbell is an Investment Manager in San Francisco, California.
As a member of the Ponca tribe and someone who has spent her career striving to enhance the cause of Indian rights and to develop solutions to problems that many Nebraska Indians face, gaiashkibos is very passionate about the history surrounding Native Americans, in particular, the story of Chief Standing Bear.
Nearly 140 years ago, to honor his dying son’s last wish to be buried in his homeland, Chief Standing Bear and his small clan embarked on a 600-mile journey back to their former home. En route, they were arrested and imprisoned for leaving the Reservation. In May of 1879, Standing Bear sued the U.S. government for his freedom. His victory in U.S. District court in Omaha declared that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law,” resulting in a landmark case in our country.
After learning of Standing Bear’s story from gaiashkibos, Campbell became interested in possible ways to honor Native Americans through Standing Bear’s story in Nebraska.
After many conversations with one another and continuous collaborations with the City of Lincoln, Campbell came forward with a donation that would fund a large scale project, a 10-foot bronze sculpture to be exact, to be located on Nebraska’s Centennial Mall, outside the University of Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
“Sometimes in life, things magically happen and the stars align,” gaiashkibos said. “Don and I are from such different backgrounds but that true Doane connection became a gift to our city and our state. It’s a good reflection of what Doane is about.”
Renowned sculptor Ben Victor, the only living artist to have two works in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, was commissioned to create the work of art. Victor captured the powerful image of Chief Standing Bear as he stands in the courtroom with his right hand outstretched, fighting for his freedom to return to his homeland to bury his son. In the courtroom, Standing Bear famously said, “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you will also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. God made us both.”
“It’s a very moving, heart-wrenching story,” Campbell said. “This will be a great chance to educate others. The best part is it’s visible and it’s permanent. Not a lot of things you can do are both of those things.”
Plans are in place to expand Chief Standing Bear’s story on the wall, which is 80 feet long and five feet high, behind the sculpture. Over 400 people were at the dedication ceremony with the sculpture unveiling in October, and the two Doane trustees are excited to see the countless number of people who will take in the beautiful piece of art in the future.
“I think it’s something that will represent the heart of Lincoln and Nebraska,” Campbell said. “Nebraskans have a caring heart and really care about their neighbors. I think it’s something that will be appreciated for a long time.”
EVENT: Doane University’s Crete campus will host Joe Starita, UNL professor and author of “I Am a Man”: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, on Wednesday, November 15 as part of the Critical Courageous Conversations series. Starita will be speaking at Noon on Nov. 15 in the Multicultural Nexus Center. All students, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend.