Is there any more tremendous honor than having your likeness made into a US postal stamp?
It’s an accolade reserved for men and women who have changed history.
So, it probably came as no surprise, last month, when that honor was extended to Chief Standing Bear.
A civil rights legend in his own time, Chief Standing Bear, changed the view of Native Americans for generations and will be remembered in a beautifully painted portrait on a forever stamp for many years to come.
Chief Standing Bear most notably changed the future of all Native Americans when he was victorious in an 1879 lawsuit, declaring a Native American as a person under the law, who is deserving of the inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The impetus for this monumental court battle began when Chief Standing Bear was arrested and imprisoned following a string of events, including his son’s death, after a 600-mile journey back to his territory. The United States Army had relocated over 700 members of Chief Standing Bear’s tribe after the government mistakenly gave away their homeland. He was later arrested and brought to trial to defend his actions of simply returning to his land. During that trial, Chief Standing Bear delivered his profound speech stating that we are all equal in God’s eyes.
In the now-historic case, Chief Standing Bear recited his infamous “I am a Man” speech where he professed, in part, “That hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be of the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both.” Years later, in 1924, the issue received formal resolution with the Indian Citizenship Act, stating any Native American born in the US would be granted citizenship. Upon winning the case, Chief Standing Bear was allowed to return to his homeland on the old Nebraska reservation.
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Now more than 140 years later, Chief Standing Bear is being memorialized on a USPS stamp for his message that is still needed today. An honor that is long overdue according to Anton Hajjar, vice chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, who said, “It took our country far too long to recognize the humanity in many of its people – including the American Indians who lived in these lands for thousands of years.”
Chief Standing Bear will be remembered for his groundbreaking civil rights work, and this stamp ensures that his legacy will continue. His striking portrait will grace the envelopes of all who buy the stamps for years to come and remind them of his importance in Native American as well as United States history.
He has become a Civil Rights icon and is rightfully a part of the prestigious USPS postage collection honoring such leaders. As a forever stamp, Chief Standing Bear’s historic stamp will never change in price.