Chief Standing Bear
On September 18, 2019, sculptor Benjamin Victor, NSS, attended the unveiling of his monument of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe in the Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall. The golden drapery flowed elegantly off the over-life size bronze statue, which was greeted with applause, cheers and awes of appreciation.
In 1879, Standing Bear was the principal figure in the court case that established that Native Americans are ‘persons within the meaning of the law’ and entitled to the same rights as all others. Standing Bear was on trial for illegally leaving the Oklahoma reservation the U.S. Government forcibly moved him to with other members of his tribe. He left to bury his son, who had died during the forced relocation, in his Nebraska birthplace. Victor says, “When I think of what it must have been like for Standing Bear to lose his 16-year-old son, Bear Shield, who died in Oklahoma ‘Indian Territory,’ it moves me to tears. While I was creating the sculpture, my own son was about 16 years old. As a father, I can’t help but think of the strength it must have taken for Standing Bear to lead on as he mourned the tragedy of his son and so many others.”
In 2018, National Sculpture Society honored Benjamin Victor with the Alex J. Ettl grant for his demonstrated commitment to sculpting and the outstanding ability shown in his work. Victor is one of Boise State University’s Professors of the Practice with a gallery and studio located on the University’s campus. He is currently working on a women’s veterans memorial, “The Promise,” for the Veteran’s Garden in Caldwell, Idaho. Standing Bear is his third monumental portrait for the Statuary Hall, the first in 2005 of Sarah Winnemucca for Nevada and the second in 2014 of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug for Iowa.