Standing Bear & General Crook

You can learn about the story of Chief Standing Bear, with a visit to the General George Crook house.

"The most well-known or important story in terms of Douglas County's role with native American history, would be the Standing Bear vs. Crook trial, which was held in 1879," Douglas County Historical Society Executive Director Kathy Aultz said. "General George Crook was in charge of Fort Omaha at that time. The native Americans were being displaced and sent to reservations. And the Ponca tribe, which was in Niobrara, Nebraska, were being displaced to Oklahoma," Aultz said.

Aultz said many of the Ponca on the route became sick, some died, including the son of Chief Standing Bear. As the story goes, Standing Bear wanted to honor the dying wish of his son to be buried in his homeland in the present-day Niobrara area. Standing Bear and other native Americans left the reservation. That was illegal, and General Crook was required to arrest them, and hold them at Fort Omaha. "But that didn't sit well with him, he didn't feel like it was the right thing, and that (Standing Bear) should be allowed to bury his son," Aultz said. "He partnered with attorneys in Omaha and the editor of the local paper. Ultimately, there was a trial of Standing Bear vs. Crook. (Standing Bear) sued the general for the right of habeas corpus. The significance of the trial is not only local significance, but national significance, because the judge in the case ruled that Standing Bear did have the right (to bury his son), and it was the first time an Indian was formally recognized as a human being," Aultz said.

Aultz added that it's possible General Crook and Standing Bear met in the Crook house to discuss plans for the trial. You can learn much more about this at the house. It's open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.