Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata in Eight Tableaux

Jerod Tate


Performance forces:
bar — pno, str 6tet



The Ponca American Indians were a part of the historic forced removals from their homelands to Indian Territory, now the State of Oklahoma. Today, 39 tribes live in Oklahoma as a result of this mass exodus. Chief Standing Bear was a highly revered leader of the Ponca during this time. After relocating to Oklahoma from Nebraska, many Ponca fell to tuberculosis, including Standing Bear’s 15 year-old son, Bear Shield. Bear Shield’s last request to his father was that he be returned home and buried among his ancestors. Thus began the heroic journey of Standing Bear walking hundreds of miles to bury his son. Along the way, he faced government and military resistance. He was greatly helped by his cousins, the Omaha, sympathetic American settlers, local press and legal council. After a very complicated battle, Standing Bear was able to rise in front of a federal court, filled with local and national community members and declare that American Indians have the same rights as all US citizens. He was entirely correct and the court granted him and all American Indians the status of Habeas Corpus. Afterward, he privately and quietly finished his journey back to his home land and buried his son. Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata in Eight Tableaux is a rhapsodic expression of Standing Bear’s journey and challenges. It starts with his expressions of his courageous promise to his son. Then it takes time to reflect on his own wonderful childhood, in the old traditional ways. After, we return to the removal death toll and loss of Ponca lives in Oklahoma. The seventh tableau is the climax of the work, in which Standing Bear expresses his personal resolution to the world that all men are created equal. The eighth tableau is a celebratory orchestration of Standing Bear’s honor song, created by Harry Buffalo Head. WATCH LIVE PERFORMANCE I: Prelude II: Migration III: Sing IV: Childhood V: The Hunt VI: Death Toll VII: Resolution VIII: Honor Song