Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian celebrates “I Am a Man”

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York will celebrate a Nebraska author’s work during National Book Month on Sept. 8 from noon to 5 p.m.

Joe Starita will discuss his novel “I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice” with Judi gaiashkibos (Ponca/Lakota), the director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. The event begins at 2 p.m. in the Diker Pavilion.

In 1877, the Ponca were forcibly removed from their Nebraska homeland and marched to “Indian Territory” (now Oklahoma). The journey became the tribe’s Trail of Tears.

“I Am a Man” chronicles the story of Chief Standing Bear’s 600-mile walk to return the body of his only son to the Ponca tribe’s traditional burial ground. Along the way, the book examines the complex relationship between the United States government and the small, peaceful tribe and the legal consequences of land swaps and broken treaties, while never losing sight of the heartbreaking journey the Ponca endured.

 “I Am a Man” was selected for two reading programs: first as Nebraska’s reading choice for the One Book One Nebraska statewide reading program in 2012; and Lincoln’s city-wide community reading program One Book-One Lincoln in 2010. Nebraska libraries and other literary and cultural organizations plan activities and events to encourage all Nebraskans to read and discuss the same book.

In 2011, Starita received the National Education Association’s Leo Reano Memorial Award acknowledging his work toward the education and achievement of equal opportunity for American Indians.

Prior to teaching journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Starita was an investigative reporter and New York bureau chief for The Miami Herald, where some of his time was spent exposing injustices and unethical practices towards Haitian immigrants living in South Florida.

As a professor of journalism Starita’s interests grew to include the study of history and culture of Native Americans. His 1995 book, “The Dull Knifes of Pine Ridge: A Lakota Odyssey,” traces the lives of Dull Knife and members of four succeeding generations. The book was nominated for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction.

In 2009, Starita began his Native Daughters project as a way to help his students examine the roles that Native American women have traditionally played in Indian history, culture, art, medicine and politics.

Starita uses proceeds from his book and fees for related speaking engagements to create the Standing Bear Memorial Scholarship Fund for Nebraska Native American high school students.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the George Gustav Heye Center, is located at One Bowling Green in New York City, across from Battery Park. The museum is free and open every day (except Dec. 25) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 8 p.m. For information, call (212) 514-3700 or visit

I Am A Man book cover

NMAI Book Month Schedule Sept. 8

  • Noon – Collector’s Office
    Murielle Borst Tarrant (Kuna/Rappahannock) will read excerpts from her new young adult novel, “The Star Medicine.”
  • 1 p.m. – Resource Center
    A reading of Bently Spang’s (Northern Cheyenne) children’s book, “The War Shirt,” followed by hands-on activity in the Education Classroom.
  • 2 p.m. – Diker Pavilion
    Glen Wharton will read excerpts from his book, “The Painted King.
    Joe Starita will discuss his novel, “I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice,” with Judi gaiashkibos (Ponca/Lakota).