The Trial of Standing Bear
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The Decision

Standing Bear and supporters
Standing Bear, seated third from right, and supporters.
Courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society, RG2066-4-2

After a short trial, Judge Elmer Dundy issued a ruling that surprised many observers and caused comment across the country. The judge found that "an Indian is a person within the meaning of the law" and that Standing Bear was being held illegally. He issued a "writ of habeas corpus" — which is an "order to produce a body" or release someone held illegally. Here are the five key points of the ruling:

"First. That an Indian is a person with the meaning of the laws of the United States, and has therefore the right to sue out a writ of habeas corpus in a federal court and before a federal judge, in all cases where he may be confined, or in custody under color of authority of the United States, or where he is restrained of liberty in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States.

Second. That General George Cook, the respondent, being the commander of the military department of the Platte, has the custody of the relators [the Poncas] under color of authority of the United States, and in violation of the laws thereof.

Third. That no rightful authority exists for removing by force any of the relators to the Indian Territory, as the respondent has been directed to do.

Fourth. That the Indians possess the inherent right of expatriation as well as the more fortunate white race, and have the inalienable right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ so long as they obey the laws and do not trespass on forbidden ground. And

Fifth. Being restrained of liberty under color of authority of the United States, and in violation of the laws thereof, the relators must be discharged from custody, and it is so ordered."
Omaha Herald: Standing Bear's Release Read about it:
The text of the decision in
"Standing Bear’s Victory" on May 13 and "Standing Bear’s Release" on May 15, 1879
in the Omaha Herald.

Standing Bear was free to return to the Niobrara River.
He did and buried his son.

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