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State senator who is member of Oglala Lakota Tribe is chosen for ‘courage’ award from Standing Bear group


State senator who is member of Oglala Lakota Tribe is chosen for ‘courage’ award from Standing Bear group

Sep 25, 2023 | 4:26 pm ET
By Paul Hammel
State senator who is member of Oglala Lakota Tribe is chosen for ‘courage’ award from Standing Bear group
After six years of trying, State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon was able to win passage this spring of a state law allowing "constitutional carry" of concealed guns. The law did away with the requirement of passing a handgun training course to obtain a state permit. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, a member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe, is being honored for his involvement in several Native American initiatives.

The Chief Standing Bear Project has chosen Brewer for its annual “Prize for Courage” to be awarded during a banquet on Indigenous People’s Day, Oct. 9, in Lincoln.

Larry Dwyer, a board member of the Project and an author who has written about Standing Bear, said that Brewer has been a “great leader” on Native American causes during his seven years in the Nebraska Legislature.

Standing Bear
A bust of Chief Standing Bear was unveiled in 2022 in front of a state office building renamed for the famed Ponca chief. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Those efforts include getting a Standing Bear statute installed in the National Statutory Hall at the U.S. Capitol and getting a state office building in Lincoln renamed after the Ponca chief. Brewer also assisted in designating a 22-mile segment of a hike-bike trail south of Beatrice as the “Chief Standing Bear Trail,” to mark the route of the Ponca Tribe when it was removed from its reservation in northeast Nebraska in 1877.

The courage award was established a year ago, when it was given to actor Wes Studi.

Brewer grew up near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, graduating from Gordon High School and earning a degree from Doane College.

Brewer, at left, gave his respects at the funeral of a Ukranian solder killed in the war with Russia during one of his trips to the conflict.
(Courtesy of Tom Brewer)

He enlisted in the Nebraska National Guard in 1977. During his military career, he served in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was wounded twice during deployments, leading to two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and the Secretary of Defense medal of freedom.

He also led a military response team following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. His team rescued more than 600 people.

Brewer, who is married with two grown children, was first elected to the State Legislature in 2016, then re-elected in 2020.

In the past three years, he has led a contingent of state lawmakers in a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro,  and conducted three humanitarian missions to Ukraine.

Tickets for the Chief Standing Bear Project dinner, which will be held at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, are available via the project’s website.  

The Chief Standing Bear Project was established to honor the Ponca chief, who some call “the Martin Luther King” of civil rights for Native Americans. Standing Bear famously won a court ruling in 1879 that recognized that Native Americans were “persons” under U.S. law.