I had the honor of receiving a scholarship to attend the annual conference of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL). So back in September I packed my bags and headed to Omaha for a long weekend. The weather and the city were both lovely and my peers were insightful, sharp, and funny. I came back home with new ideas and new energy. While I was there, I also had the opportunity to meet a number of fantastic speakers – Lee Rainie, the Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Craig Johnson, the author of the popular Longmire series (also a TV series on AMC!), and Joe Starita, the author of I Am A Man, the true story of Chief Standing Bear.
To be fair, it was difficult to write an unbiased review of the book. Joe Starita is certainly an oral storyteller and listening to him speak inspired me to devour this book and this story, even through parts of the book that seemed to drag. While the passion that is so evident in Starita’s speaking style does not always translate into his written work, it is a truly amazing story, well-researched, and well-worth reading.
In 1877 Chief Standing Bear is forced to travel with his family and the rest of the Ponca tribe to the Indian Territory, never to return to their homeland, leaving behind their homes, their farms, their possessions, and their burial grounds. Devastated by disease, the environment, and arduous travels, a small group of Ponca join Chief Standing Bear as he attempts to make the 600 mile journey back to his homeland for one reason only – to bury his son. I Am A Man chronicles his journey, not only to the Indian Territory and back, but his journey to justice – to the Federal Courts in a case against the United States Government – in his quest to be treated as a man. In the midst of horrendous and inexplicable circumstances, his fortitude and his faith are inspirational.
Title: I am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice
Author: Joe Starita
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Publication: St. Martin’s Griffin, January 2010