A Standing Bear from the Vault

A Standing Bear from the Vault

By Will Noel

Every few weeks, Emma Sarconi, our Outreach Specialist, brings up to the Firestone Library lobby items from the vault that have piqued her interest, and which she thinks our public will enjoy.

Emma Sarconi and Charles Doran in the lobby of Firestone Library
Emma Sarconi and Charles Doran in the lobby of Firestone Library.

In her last showing, of all the items she chose, I liked this one the best.  It is a copy of My People, the Sioux by Luther Standing Bear. Published in 1928, this book is one of the first published about Indigenous people, written by an Indigenous person.  Princeton University Library’s copy is inscribed by the author, with a wonderful drawing of a standing bear.

"Chief Standing Bear (Mato Najin),
Ohini yan nita kola. (Always your firend)
2/30/30" and a drawing of a bear
Flyleaf in 1928 copy of My People, the Sioux (Rollins 2525). Western Americana Collection.

Luther Standing Bear’s story is fascinating. As Emma told me, he was a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, born in 1868 on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After surviving an education on the Carlisle Indian School, he opened a dry goods store in Pine Ridge before joining Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with his family. He briefly acted as Chief of the Oglala Lakota before moving to California to pursue a career in the movie industry, partnering with Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe to establish the Indian Actors Association. The book was one of four he wrote as part of a broader effort to build support for the Indian New Deal (later passed as the Indian Reorganization Act). Standing Bear’s writings are an important resource for cultural heritage and memory.