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Governor Gives Students Native American History Lesson

By Michael Wargo

Fmr Gov Frank Keating

Former Gov. Frank Keating addresses professor Benedetto's Dissident Media class.

When you have your Standing Bear moment, what will you do?

That’s what former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating asked students in professor Richard Benedetto’s Dissident Media class when he visited to speak about Native American civil rights. Benedetto had invited Keating based on his experience with Native American tribes during his years in office. That experience had also interested a publishing company, which came to Keating saying that they wanted a book on a Native American.  

Keating already had a person in mind. “He’s unknown, and nobody knows he was the father of the civil rights movement for Native Americans in the United States,” said Keating. The result is The Trial of Standing Bear.  

After the Military forced the removal of Standing Bear’s Ponca tribe from its land, nearly a third of the tribe perished due to starvation, malaria and related causes, including Standing Bear's eldest son.  

This brought about the first civil rights case in the history of the Native Americans, in 1879, when Standing Bear successfully argued in U.S. District Court that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law”.  

Keating challenged the class to ask themselves whether they would be willing to say, “[T]his is an issue that I need to address with courage of fearless devotion to the truth. Am I willing to have my Standing Bear moment?” 

“To me that’s the most important thing about American history; for people to risk everything for moral courage and be willing to take it as far as they needed to stand up for what was right.”