WASHINGTON (KFOR) – The U.S. Postal Service is honoring Ponca Tribe Chief Standing Bear with a Forever stamp.

Chief Standing Bear stamp
Chief Standing Bear stamp. Image courtesy U.S. Postal Service.

The stamp features a portrait of Chief Standing Bear by illustrator Thomas Blackshear II. Blackshear created the portrait based on a photograph taken of Standing Bear in 1877 while he was in Washington, DC, as part of a delegation of Ponca chiefs appealing to government officials for the right to return to their homeland.

In 1877, the U.S. Army had forcibly relocated some 700 Ponca to Indian Territory (what is now Kay County, Oklahoma) after the federal government had given away the tribe’s homeland in the Niobrara River Valley (what is now northeastern Nebraska).

According to some estimates, nearly 158, almost a third of the tribe, perished during the first years in Oklahoma. After the death of his son in 1878, Standing Bear attempted to return to his homeland with a number of others.

Standing Bear was arrested, along with 29 other Ponca, for leaving the reservation without permission.

In a landmark civil rights case, Standing Bear v. Crook, Standing Bear sued the government for his freedom.

Lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of the detention, an unprecedented action on behalf of a Native American.

The court ruled in 1879 that Indians were recognized as persons under the 14th Amendment and therefore could sue for their rights. (Natives would not be considered citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.)

After winning the case, Standing Bear and the members of the Ponca who had followed him were allowed to return to their old Nebraska reservation along the Niobrara River.

Customers may purchase stamps through the Postal Store, by calling 844-737-7826, by mail through USA Philatelic or at Post Office locations nationwide.