CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, December 9, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 5086, a bill to amend the National Trails System Act to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the feasibility of designating the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail, and for other purposes, as amended, under a suspension of the rules. H.R. 5086 was introduced on July 11, 2014 by Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and was ordered to be reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources on November 19, 2014 by unanimous consent.
H.R. 5086 amends the National Trails System Act to direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study on the feasibility of designating the Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail. Actual designation of the trail, if appropriate, will require additional legislation. The Chief Standing Bear National Historic Trail would extend approximately 550 miles from Niobrara, Nebraska, to Ponca City, Oklahoma, following the route taken by Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca people during federal Indian removal and their return route back to Niobrara, Nebraska.
In 1877, the federal government decided to remove the Poncas from the Great Sioux Reservation to Indian Territory. Standing Bear, a tribal leader, protested the tribe’s eviction but federal troops enforced the removal orders and the Poncas were moved to Indian Territory in the summer of 1878. After arriving in Indian County, Chief Standing Bear’s son died in late 1878. Wanting to honor his son’s last wish to be buried in the land of his birth, Standing Bear gathered a few members of his tribe and started north for the Ponca homeland in January 1879.
Because Indians were not allowed to leave the reservation without permission, Standing Bear and his followers were arrested. The Army took them to Fort Omaha, where they were to be held before being returned to Indian Territory. General George Crook sympathized with Standing Bear and asked Thomas Henry Tibbles, a journalist/activist, for help. Tibbles, then the editor of the Omaha Daily Herald, secured two Omaha attorneys to represent Standing Bear. The lawyers filed in federal court for a writ of habeas corpus to test the legality of the Chief’s detention. The government contested the right of Standing Bear to obtain a writ on the grounds that an Indian was not a “person” under the law. The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of Standing Bear, reasoning that he and his band were indeed “persons” under the law, entitled to sever tribal connections, and were free to enjoy the rights of any other person in the land. The government appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case.
“CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would cost about $500,000 over the next year or two, assuming availability of appropriated funds. Enacting H.R. 5086 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. H.R. 5086 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would not affect the budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.”
For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.