July 03, 1989 12:00 PM

PBS (Tues., July 4, 9:30 P.M. ET)


In 1877 the U.S. government confiscated Nebraska land inhabited by the Ponca tribe, forcing its 500 members to move to Oklahoma on foot. The trip and the new environment killed a third of the tribe. Then its leader. Chief Standing Bear, and a few followers returned to their old land, where they were arrested. Their trial, which established that the Constitution applies to Native Americans, is the focus of this two-hour drama. It’s pokey and dry, but good for you. As Standing Bear, Native American actor Ivan Naranjo delivers an eloquent courtroom plea that Indians are human too. It’s a shocking insight into 19th-century bigotry.

Jeff Jarvis is on special assignement.

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