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Creighton professor portrays civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear

Taylor Keen portrays Chief Standing Bear while presenting his history. Photo by Lucas Ratliff / Antelope Staff

The Office of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership hosted an event featuring Taylor Keen, a Creighton business professor and speaker, portraying civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear. The speech took place in the Ponderosa Room and focused on educating attendees about the history of Chief Standing Bear.

Keen, who has been speaking for Chief Standing Bear for over a decade, is primarily affiliated with the Omahas but has Ponca relatives. This provides him with a connection to Chief Standing Bear. Keen mentioned that most of his information about Chief Standing Bear comes from the book “I Am a Man” by Joe Starita and stories from the tribe he grew up in.

“At the very end, when I recounted the dream that he had and what he said to the judge, it was to the best of my abilities to make it work word for word,” Keen said. “But in our Indigenous traditions, it’s all about speaking from the heart, so I do my best to feel it as much as possible.”

Keen highlighted that speaking for Chief Standing Bear feels different each time but remains an important and powerful exercise. He emphasized the impact of educating people about its history.

“Every time I get up there is something different,” Keen said. “It’s a powerful moving exercise every time, and I know it touches people’s hearts and educates them about the important history.”

Luis Olivas, director of the IEL office, organizes events for the organization. He viewed the Chief Standing Bear event as an opportunity to teach and represent the indigenous population on campus.

During the event, the lack of education on the struggles of Native American people was a commonly discussed point. Olivas attributed this to the difficulty of getting first hand witnesses to talk about their experiences.

“I think it’s difficult because many indigenous and native people that went through this went through both the Trail of Tears and then later boarding schools,” Olivas said.

Olivas acknowledged the damage that indigenous culture has suffered and noted that events like this one serve as a good starting point for repairing it.

“It is the loss of dignity as a person and as a people, so literature is very limited around these types of projects because there’s so much trauma,” Olivas said. “So, when we have scholars like Mr. Keen that blend the educational part into the entertainment part, I think it’s important.”

Jonah EagleFeather, a junior studying social work at UNK and one of the attendees of Keen’s speech, said he found the event informative.

“The stories of Chief Standing Bear were very eye-opening and educational,” EagleFeather said. “I felt connected because I am indigenous myself.”

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Lucas Ratliff
Lucas Ratliff, Reporter
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