Bill to swap Bryan, Morton statues at U.S. Capitol with Cather, Standing Bear advances

Bill to swap Bryan, Morton statues at U.S. Capitol with Cather, Standing Bear advances
U.S. Capitol statue of Nebraska City's J. Sterling Morton

LINCOLN — Nebraska’s proposed statue swap is moving ahead.

On Tuesday, state lawmakers gave 37-0 first-round approval to a bill to change the state’s representatives in a display of statues at the U.S. Capitol.

William Jennings Bryan and J. Sterling Morton, who have been in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall for more than 80 years, would be replaced by celebrated author Willa Cather and Chief Standing Bear, the Ponca chief whose lawsuit led to legal recognition of Native Americans as people.

“I’m speechless,” said Judi gaiashkibos, the executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs and a member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

“We’re thrilled,” said Ashley Olson, executive director of the Red Cloud-based Willa Cather Foundation.

The National Statuary Hall, opened in 1864, allows states to provide two representatives each. In 2000, Congress allowed states to replace and update their statues, and several states, including Iowa, have done that.

Legislative Bill 807, sponsored by State Sen. Burke Harr of Omaha, would allow the swap as long as it didn’t cost any state funds. Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, who proposed the amendment to include Standing Bear, said a donor for that statue has already been found.

The bill, which still needs two more OKs by lawmakers and a signature from Gov. Pete Ricketts, calls for appropriate new homes to be found in Nebraska for the Morton and Bryan sculptures.

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