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