Standing Bear Elementary School derives its name from Standing Bear, a Ponca chief. Standing Bear was born on the Ponca reservation in what is now Nebraska around 1834, although some sources say he was born in 1829. His Indian name was “Ma’chi-nah-zah.” Because he showed unusual abilities, he became a chief at an early age.
By the time Standing Bear was born, the Ponca tribe had settled in an area around the mouth of the Niobrara River. In 1858, the Ponca relinquished all land they had claimed except for a small reserve along the Niobrara. In the Treaty of 1868, the government mistakenly included the Ponca’s land in the territory assigned to the Sioux. Following this error, the Sioux raided the area claimed by the Ponca and many lives were lost. The government’s solution to end the raids was to move the Ponca to Indian Territory (present day Okalahoma).
In hospitable surroundings there caused many deaths. Standing Bear and thirty others tried to return to their home on the Niobrara. They were stopped on the Omaha Reservation and arrested on orders from the Secretary of Interior in Washington D.C. General George Crook detained Standing Bear and the others at Fort Omaha. Although they were ordered back to Indian Territory at once, a delay was obtained so they could rest and regain their health.
During this time, however, Standing Bear petitioned the court to determine whether an Indian had the rights of freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. On April 30, 1879 Judge Elmer Dundy ruled in favor of Standing Bear’s petition and stated that the Ponca were within the law and were being held illegally. A government commission arranged for the return of the Ponca from Indian Territory and allotted land to them along the Niobrara River.
Between 1879 and 1883, Standing Bear traveled in the eastern United States and spoke about Indian rights. He won the support of many prominent people.
After he returned from the east, Standing Bear resided on his old home on the Niobrara and farmed his land. He died in 1908.
In the spring of 2004, construction of a new building began at 15860 Taylor Street. In August 2005, Standing Bear Elementary School opened its doors.