The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Pow Wow: A Time to Celebrate its History
Lisa J. Ellwood
Ponca Tribe of Nebraska celebrates 24 years of restored federal recognition - List of additional pow wows below.
This weekend the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska holds its 24th annual Pow Wow in honor of their long-held traditions to honor the fall harvest, successful hunts, and births, deaths and weddings of tribal members during the previous year. Their gatherings were a time of celebration for relatives, friends, and other tribes.
Today the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Pow Wow is a time for the tribe to share, celebrate, reminisce and pass on their knowledge and traditions to future generations after restoration of the Tribe’s federal recognition via the Ponca Restoration Act in 1990 after two aggressive bids by the U.S. Government to wipe it out of existence.
The Ponca were rendered “persona non-grata” (people treated as a hostile foreign power) in the 1800s leading to the [in]famous trial of Ponca Chief Ma-Chu-nah Zah aka Standing Bear in 1879. The Trial of Standing Bear was a milestone for the Ponca and for Native American Rights in general as it was the first time a U.S. court recognized a Native American as an actual person who was afforded equal protection under the law.
Established by the 83rd Congress in 1953, the Indian Termination Policy (ITP) was a nationwide tool of forced assimilation that effectively reduced Native landholdings and eroded power by ending the special relationships between federal government and Native tribes—and with the complicity of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This policy of termination was directed at roughly 109 tribes and bands and almost 1.5 million acres of trust land. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska was targeted in 1962 and the termination removed 442 Poncas from tribal rolls.
“In effect, this meant that not only did the Ponca no longer exist but also that their remaining land and holdings were dissolved,” the PTN history states on their website. “It was not until 1990, almost a quarter of a century later, that the Ponca would, once again, gain federal recognition. However, in the interim, much of the Tribe’s cultural heritage would be forever lost.”
The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is one of two federally recognized Ponca tribes, the other being the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska are believed to have been part of the Omaha Tribe, separated by the time Lewis and Clark encountered in 1804.
Historically, the Ponca were not large in number, averaging 800 people in 1780 only to be decimated by European diseases including Smallpox to 200 by 1804. Today, the tribe has close to 3,500 members. The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is the name used to describe the Northern Ponca Tribe after it was officially restored.
Video: Blessing of the “Standing Bear and the Ponca Tribe” Nebraska Historical Marker
Video: Ponca Pow Wow Grand Entry 2015
Video: Women’s Song 2015