Standing Bear (Ponca) (1829-1908)
Contributing Editor: Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.
Classroom Issues and Strategies
It is difficult to provide a historical framework for Standing Bear, though this can be overcome by acquainting students with the modes, conventions, and protocol of Indian oratory, getting them to understand the word as a spoken record of a nonliterate culture. It might be useful to place the dispossession of the Poncas of lands that were traditionally theirs alongside the economic aspirations of immigrants to America and the excesses of the Gilded Age as evidenced in the literature. Teachers who feel hesitant here can make some literary connections by looking at Helen Hunt Jackson's A Century of Dishonor.
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
Three major themes are an understanding of those who were victimized by national goals of Manifest Destiny; the rights of those outside constitutional protection; and the dehumanization of people in the march of nineteenth-century progress.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Introduce the modes, conventions, and protocol of Indian oratory.
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
Concerning the theme of destruction of Indian cultures in the late nineteenth century, Indian writers like Posey, Eastman, Bonnin, and Oskison offer useful points of comparison. The position of the Indians as non-white peoples in America might be usefully compared and contrasted to the position of other such groups, like the African-Americans.
See primary and secondary works listed with the text headnote.