Standing Bear Prize for Courage

About the Project

The Standing Bear Prize for Courage is a project of the Chief Standing Bear Project Inc.  The Purpose of the Corporation is to promote the life and civil rights legacy of Chief Standing Bear, a Native American of the Ponca Tribe, by presenting public discussion groups, forums, lectures and other events, and annually recognizing with a cash award a person who exemplifies courage in the spirit of Standing Bear. To learn about our most recent recipient of the Standing Bear Prize for Courage, or to purchase tickets for the awards ceremony, click below.


From his birth on the banks of the Niobrara River in Nebraska until his death in 1908, Chief Standing Bear spent his life in a constant struggle to gain equality and justice for Native Americans. Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca Tribe were forced in 1877 by federal treaty to leave their homeland in Nebraska for Indian Country in what is now Oklahoma. The hardship of travel and the conditions of Indian Territory caused the deaths of many members of the tribe, including Chief Standing Bear’s son. Determined to grant his son his dying wish to be buried in his homeland, Chief Standing Bear led 30 members of his tribe back to Nebraska, where federal authorities detained him. As a result, Chief Standing Bear became the first Native American recognized as a “person” within the meaning of the law by a federal court.  At the end of the trial, Judge Dundy gave Chief Standing Bear the opportunity to address the court and provide personal remarks.  Chief Standing Bear rose and spoke his famous words: “This hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made both of us.”

Criteria and Eligibility

Chief Standing Bear exhibited immense courage throughout his life, as a father, tribal leader and Native American, acting against powerful societal forces which, although clearly wrong, were accepted by the culture of his day. The Chief Standing Bear Prize for Courage is established in his honor to recognize Native Americans that exemplify courage in the spirit of Chief Standing Bear. The Chief Standing Bear Prize for Courage celebrates Native Americans who do what is right, rather than what is expedient and who have exhibited contemporary acts of political or societal courage in their lifetime. Recipients of this Prize will be selected because they represent the many courageous people upon whom our country depends and not because they are considered the most courageous person in the country.

Chief Standing Bear Prize for Courage Award

The Prize will include a 2-foot statuette of Chief Standing Bear and a monetary prize of $5,000.