The term Ponca which means “cut throat” was the name given to clans of Kansa, Osage and Quapaw. The Ponca are a Midwestern Native American tribe originating in Mississippi before they moved to live around the mouth of Niobrara Riverin northern Nebraska(McKinley Parrish 176). In the 18thcentury, the group was hit by 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 years time, another one was signed, regulating trade relations and helping minimize internal feuds. Inorder to attain protection, the Ponca signed another treaty with the United States where they gave up some of their land. 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 the United States government officials (Mathes, 15). They were relocated to other areas despite the tribe’s chiefsresistance(McKinley Parrish 177). In this new location, the Ponca tribe suffered from malaria, shortage of food and hot climate.
In 1881, the Ponca tribe were very fortunatebecause 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 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 thetribe itself reflected their oldcustom 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 1750’s,the Poncapeople adopted a nomadic lifestyle of the plain Indians. They became hunters foranimals 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, thePonca used painted war shields.
Theirclothing for menwas 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 the warm buffalo robes or cloaks when the cold persisted. On their legs, men wore sandals or moccasins, a soft, light beige, slip-on shoe which consisted of a sole and the sides were made of a singleleather 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 and women wares. Their clothes were adorned with ornaments mostly necklaces, wrist bands and earrings.
Ponca Tribe Music.The Ponca havea very rich musical culture. They arewell known for drumming, dancing and singing. For a long time, the tribe has been known for holding annual celebrations (Browne, & Cottrell, 57). These celebrations serveto preserve their traditional language, dance andsongs. 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 theStraight and Fancy titles in a 1926 contest held at Haskell institute in Lawrence, Kan.
Contemporary issues of Ponca Tribe
In the present days, 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 emission 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). Thisissuehas been there for a considerable ammount of time and has really affected the people of thePonca tribe. The factory owners on the other hand act as if they are not aware of what the gasses cause to to the locals and their lives. Other than pollution, the tribe is also dealing with issueslike 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 the recent years, the Ponca tribe in collaboration with the local county government replaced a decaying bridge of theArkansas 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 which they are a part of. They struggle to give their population good education andgood health.They involve themselves in modern economy processess and businesses to accumulate more welth whisch, in turn, is also used to preserve their national identity. The tribe’s culture has changed from what it used to beearly 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 for jobs to support their families. Amazingly, this tribe has been able to overcome all the problems it had in the past centuries,lossof land being one of them. Ponca tribe begun with 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.