About the book

"I Am a Man": Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice

I Am a Man by Joe Starita Hardcover edition
Copyright: 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN-10: 0-312-53304-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-53304-5
272 pages

Paperback edition
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
ISBN-10: 0-312-60638-9
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-60638-1
288 pages

Ebook edition
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN-10: 1-4299-5330-6
ISBN-13: 978-1-4299-5330-6
272 pages

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In 1877, Chief Standing Bear's Ponca Indian tribe was forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to what was then known as Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), in what became the tribe's own Trail of Tears. "I Am a Man" chronicles what happened when Standing Bear set off on a six-hundred-mile walk to return the body of his only son to their traditional burial ground. Along the way, it examines the complex relationship between the United States government and the small, peaceful tribe and the legal consequences of land swaps and broken treaties, while never losing sight of the heartbreaking journey the Ponca endured. It is a story of survival—of a people left for dead who arose from the ashes of injustice, disease, neglect, starvation, humiliation, and termination. On another level, it is a story of life and death, despair and fortitude, freedom and patriotism. A story of Christian kindness and bureaucratic evil. And it is a story of hope—of a people still among us today, painstakingly preserving a cultural identity that had sustained them for centuries before their encounter with Lewis and Clark in the fall of 1804.

Before it ends, Standing Bear's long journey home also explores fundamental issues of citizenship, constitutional protection, cultural identity, and the nature of democracy—issues that continue to resonate loudly in twenty-first-century America. It is a story that questions whether native sovereignty, tribal-based societies, and cultural survival are compatible with American democracy. Standing Bear successfully used habeas corpus, the only liberty included in the original text of the Constitution, to gain access to a federal court and ultimately his freedom. This account aptly illuminates how the nation's delicate system of checks and balances worked almost exactly as the Founding Fathers envisioned, a system arguably out of whack and under siege today.

Joe Starita's well-researched and insightful account reads like historical fiction as his careful characterizations and vivid descriptions bring this piece of American history brilliantly to life.

Source: St. Martin's Press

Joe Starita on I Am a Man

Q: Since I Am a Man was One Book, One Lincoln, what are your expectations for One Book One Nebraska?
A: My expectations are that this powerful story, one that emerged from the soil of our own state, will be read by more and more Nebraskans. And that they will come to understand the perseverance and fortitude and love of country and family, the belief in a higher authority and the deep attachment to honor and courage that this story embodies. And by doing so, they will come to a better understanding and appreciation of what the Ponca endured and overcame to still be with us today. —Joe Starita, Nebraska Center for the Book interview excerpt, November 2011

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Q: What particularly has given you satisfaction in the many [book] discussions held?
A: At this point, I have given more than 130 talks on Standing Bear and this book and I continually have been struck - and deeply gratified - by the quality of the questions that audience members ask. Whether it's Fort Robinson, Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney, Neligh, Miami or Chicago, the questions often are so thoughtful and so sincere and so insightful that it leaves you completely humbled. They are questions that could only have emerged from a very focused reading of the book and so I am very thankful for that - thankful that reading is still something that has meaning and value to Americans. —Joe Starita, Nebraska Center for the Book interview excerpt, November 2011


  • Finalist, 2011 One Book One Nebraska, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book
  • Winner, 2010 Nebraska Book Award – Non-Fiction Category, sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book
  • Winner, 2010 One Book One Lincoln, sponsored by Lincoln City Libraries

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