Winona LaDuke“I’m always a little surprised when I hear people say that they are getting on a plane and heading off to the Holy Land,” Winona LaDuke said. “Because the Holy Land is here. This is it right here in America. We are standing right now on Holy Land.  My people have known that forever, and it’s time everyone came to understand it.”

Winona was the keynote speaker at the 5th annual Chief Standing Bear Breakfast, served up in the Heartland, May 21, Lincoln, Nebraska. As she uttered the last syllable of her pronouncement about holy land, the Earth responded, as it often will in a moment of truth. The ground began to tremble. The subtle shudder continued for 20 seconds or more. It was definite. I felt it. Others felt it, too.

Currently serving as director of Native Harvest and the White Earth Land Recovery Project, Winona spoke simply but eloquently for 25 minutes before an audience of about 400 people. In the course of her remarks she mentioned her late father, Sun Bear, an old friend and colleague of mine. Sun Bear was an actor, an activist in his own right, and convener of the influential Medicine Wheel Gatherings in the 1980s and 1990s. “Very often,” Winona told the audience, “I heard my father say, ‘I don’t want to hear your philosophy if it won’t grow corn.’ It took me a long time to understand what he meant, but I get it now. He was on to something important.

“I know also,” she added, “that when you grow your own food it makes you a better human being. It connects you to the land you live upon, and it relieves a certain poverty of spirit.

Standing BearAt the breakfast event the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska announced plans to advocate for a national holiday to honor their late chief, Standing Bear, and to strive to have him recognized as someone as important to civil rights as Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1879, Standing Bear challenged decades of U.S. policy when, in the course of federal prosecution in Omaha, Nebraska, he demanded to be recognized as a person. That was the first time an Indian was permitted to appear in court in this country and have his rights tried.  The government argued that Indians were not entitled to the protection of a writ of habeas corpus because they were not citizens or even “persons” under American law.

steven mcfadden_1
6/11/2010 9:47:37 AM

Hi Cindy - When NET releases details about the broadcast of the documentary film on Standing Bear, I will post the news here. Thank you for your kind remarks.

cindy murphy
6/11/2010 9:42:25 AM

Thank you for another stimulating article, Steven, written in a style that captivates all who read. I hope though you've hinted your summer will be busy, you'll find the time to write again soon, (maybe about those "wild and challenging" things that'll be occupying your time). Thanks for the mention of the documentary, "Standing Bear's Footsteps"; do you have more specifics on when and where it's going to air?

steven mcfadden_1
6/11/2010 6:04:00 AM

Thanks for your comments, Dave, Shannon and Mountain Woman. It is my pleasure to write, and I hope I will continue to have the time to invest. This is likely to be a wild and challenging summer for one and all.

steven mcfadden_1
6/11/2010 6:03:59 AM

Thanks for your comments, Dave, Shannon and Mountain Woman. It is my pleasure to write, and I hope I will continue to have the time to invest. This is likely to be a wild and challenging summer for one and all.

mountain woman
6/11/2010 5:47:22 AM

Your post hit a nerve with me as you write about two subjects on which I have lots to say. I will not express myself here except to say I agree with what you have written. It behooves all of us to be activists for that which we believe whether it is protecting the land or our fellow human beings or acknowledging wrongs done in the past. Thank you for such thought provoking articles.

s.m.r. saia
6/11/2010 5:20:52 AM

It's hard to beleive that it was ever necessary to have a court case to determine that a native American was a "human being". That is a sad reflection on our society. Re: 'I don't want your philosophy if it won't grow corn' - I like that.

nebraska dave
6/10/2010 7:28:08 PM

Stephen, Hello my fellow Nebraskan. Another thought provoking post. I did not know that the movement for Native Americans to be recognized as human beings started in Nebraska. When I started life long long ago we lived near the Omaha Indian Pow Wow ground in Macy Nebraska. During the yearly celebration time I would fall asleep listening to the beat of the drum as they danced their ritual dances for the public. My first best friend that I can remember was from the Omaha Indian tribe and the school I attended was a mixed race school right there on the reservation. I didn’t even realize that we were supposed to be different and all I thought was he tanned a little better than I did. We should all be raised that way. I’m glad you brought me up to date with some history of Nebraska. Nebraska has been the key state in many decisions that has affected the nation. I’m glad to say that I’m from Nebraska.

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