The term Ponca which means “cutthroat” was the name given to the clans of Kansa, Osage, and Quapaw. The Ponca is a Midwestern Native American tribe originating in Mississippi before they moved to live around the mouth of the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska(McKinley Parrish 176). In the 18thcentury, the group was hit by the smallpox epidemic and they reduced in numbers. Their population became bigger again in the late 19th century. The Poncacooperated closely with the United States government and signed a number of treaties with them. In 1817, a peace treaty was signed and, in a year’s time, another one was signed, regulating trade relations and helping minimize internal feuds. In order to attain protection, the Ponca signed another treaty with the United States where they gave up some of their lands. The last treaty between the US and the Ponca was signed in the year 1865. In 1877, the Ponca tribe was moved forcefully out of their land by United States government officials (Mathes, 15). They were relocated to other areas despite the tribe’s chief resistance(McKinley Parrish 177). In this new location, the Ponca tribe suffered from malaria, a shortage of food, and a hot climate.
In 1881, the Ponca tribe was very fortunate because the United States government returned most of the land that earlier belonged to them (Mathes, 12). However, not everyone was able to move back from the Indian Territory back to their cradle land. Consequently, the tribe continued to decline. In the year 1966, the United States government terminated all its relationships with tribes including the Ponca tribe (Mathes, 10). With an aim of reviving the cultural identity of its people as well as improving their welfare, the tribe started to reorganize its political structures in the years the 1970s.To achieve this, they first had to be recognized by the state, then have their congressional representatives seek legislation for federal recognition(McKinley Parrish 177). On October 31st1990, the bill to restore the tribe was signed for the Ponca people to be recognized as the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.
Culture of Ponca Tribe
The name of the tribe itself reflected their old custom of scalping and decapitating their enemies. Originally, individuals in this tribe engaged in farming. They planted various crops including maize, beans, and squash (Mathes, 8). They also lived in small longhouse villages. After migration to the Great Plains in the 1750s, the Poncapeople adopted a nomadic lifestyle of the plains Indians. They became hunters of animals such as buffalo and antelopes. They also adopted the tepee as a better option for their summer hunting tripstemporary shelter (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 56). The language of the Ponca tribe was the Dhegihan dialect of the Siouan language. Their meals were made of fish and meat of animals like deer, black bear, and wild turkey supplemented with wild vegetables and roots like spinach, prairie turnips, and potatoes which were flavored with wild herbs (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 81). The Ponca tribes were prepared for war with weapons like bows and arrows, lances, stone ball clubs, hatchet axes, spears, and knives. For defense while horse riding, the Ponca used painted war shields.
Their clothing for men is different from the clothes worn by women. During warm weather, men wore buckskin tunics and leggings or breechcloths (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 80). In addition, they wore warm buffalo robes or cloaks when the cold persisted. On their legs, men wore sandals or moccasins, a soft, light beige, a slip-on shoe which consisted of a sole and the sides were made of a single leather piece. On their head, they wore roach headdresses (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 89). Women wore knee-length dresses, leggings, and buffalo robes when the weather was cold (Browne, & Cottrell, 78). However, there were some similarities with both the men’s and women’s wares. Their clothes were adorned with ornaments mostly necklaces, wrist bands, and earrings.
Ponca Tribe Music. The Ponca has a very rich musical culture. They are well known for drumming, dancing, and singing. For a long time, the tribe has been known for holding annual celebrations (Browne, & Cottrell, 57). These celebrations serve to preserve their traditional language, dance, and songs. In most of these celebrations, dancing competitions are held; the tribe treasures songs and dancing. The Ponca tribe has been producing the best dancers among many other tribes (Browne, & Cottrell, 67). For instance, Augustus Hurley McDonald the straight and Fancy titles in a 1926 contest held at Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kan.
Contemporary issues of Ponca Tribe
In the present day, the Ponca tribe faces a number of problems which include black carbon pollution (Browne, & Cottrell, 2010). The continental carbon company owned by the Koo family of Taiwan is responsible for black carbon emissions from the Ponca city-based factory. There is a lawsuit against this family and the government for lack of accountability in the Ponca’s pollution problems (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 39). This issue has been there for a considerable amount of time and has really affected the people of the Ponca tribe. The factory owners on the other hand act as if they are not aware of what the gasses cause to the locals and their lives. Other than pollution, the tribe is also dealing with issues like technological development. For instance, it continues to pursue opportunities for its people in areas of business, education, government, and arts (In Marubbio, & In Buffalohead, 45). These are issues that cannot be overlooked and come hand in hand with technological development. If the economy needs to be monitored, then, one must be educated to conduct this task. In addition, the tribe also deals with issues of improving infrastructure including new roads, health facilities, and plans for a multipurpose center (Browne, & Cottrell, 56). In recent years, the Ponca tribe in collaboration with the local county government replaced a decaying bridge of the Arkansas River. All these issues are for the benefit of the Ponca tribe and their neighbors as well.
In conclusion, the tribe has gone through so much transformation from the time they were migrating to the present day. Their fighting has also changed a lot. As before, they are used to fighting for land but in the ways of the modern society in which they are a part. They struggle to give their population good education and good health. They involve themselves in modern economic processes and businesses to accumulate more wealth which, in turn, is also used to preserve their national identity. The tribe’s culture has changed from what it used to be early in the day. At first, they were nomads and hunted for food. Today these people seek employment and live in one area on their land. They also migrate to other areas in search of jobs to support their families. Amazingly, this tribe has been able to overcome all the problems it had in the past centuries, loss of land being one of them. Ponca tribe began with a few people numbered in hundreds, however, today the number has increased to thousands. Despite all these changes, the tribe has really maintained most of their cultural traits, one of the main ones being the preservation of their language, which is a hard task even for much larger communities and even nations
Browne, B. T., and R. C. Cottrell. Lives and times: Individuals and issues in American history. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010.
In Marubbio, M. E., and E. L. In Buffalohead. Native Americans on film: conversations, teaching, and theory. The University Press of Kentucky, 2013.
Mathes, V. S. “Nineteenth Century Women and Reform: The Women’s National Indian Association.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 1, 2015, p. 1, doi:10.2307/1185003.
McKinley Parrish, M. “American Indian Nations from Termination to Restoration, 1953-2006. By Roberta Ulrich.” Oral History Review, vol. 42, no. 1, 2015, pp. 174-177, doi:10.1093/ohr/ohv025.