Ponca Indian Tribe History
Ponca. One of the five tribes of
the so-called Dhegiha group of the Siouan family, forming with the
Osage, and Kiansa, the upper Dhegiha
or Omaha division. The Ponca and Omaha have the same language, differing
only in some dialectic forms and approximating the
Quapaw rather than the
Kansa and Osage languages.
The early history of the tribe is the same as that of
the other tribes of the group, and, after the first separation, is
identical with that, of the Omaha. After the migration of the combined
body to the mouth of Osage river the first division of the Omaha group
took place, the Osage settling on that stream, and the Kansa continuing up
Missouri river, while the Omaha and Ponca crossed to the north side. The
course of the latter is given from the tradition recorded by J. O. Dorsey
(Am. Nat., Mar. 1886) as follows: The Omaha and Ponca, after crossing the
Missouri, ascended a tributary of that river, which may have been Chariton
river, and finally reached the pipestone quarry in south west Minnesota.
All the traditions agree in stating that the people built earth lodges or
permanent villages, cultivated the soil, and hunted buffalo and other
animals. When game became scarce they abandoned their villages and moved
north west. On reaching a place where game was plentiful, other villages
were built and occupied for years. Thus they lived and moved until they
reached the pipestone quarry. After reaching Big Sioux river they built a
fort. The Dakota made war on the Omaha and their allies, defeating them
and compelling them to flee south west until they reached Lake Andes, S.
Dak. There, according to Omaha and Ponca tradition, the sacred pipes were
given and the present gentes constituted. From this place they ascended
the Missouri to the mouth of White river, South Dakota. There the
Iowa and Omaha remained, but the Ponca
crossed the Missouri and went on to Little Missouri river and the region
of the Black hills. They subsequently rejoined their allies, and all
descended the Missouri on its right bank to the month of Niobrara river,
where the final separation took place. The Ponca remained there and the
Omaha settled on Bow creek, Nebr., while the Iowa went down the Missouri
to the site of Ionia, Dixon county, Nebr. The Yana, who on Marquette's
autograph map (1673) are placed near the Omaha, apparently on the Missouri
about the mouth of the Niobrara, are supposed to be the Ponca. If so, this
is the earliest historical mention of the tribe.
They were met by Lewis and Clark in 1804, when their
number, which had been greatly reduced by smallpox toward the close of the
18th century, was estimated at only 200. This number, however, may not
include those who had taken refuge with the Omaha. Lewis and Clark (Orig.
Jour. Lewis and Clark, y1, 88, 1905) say that they formerly resided on a
branch of Red river of the North, but as this statement is at variance
with all other authorities, and as the wording of the sentence is almost
identical with that relating to the Cheyenne (ibid., 100), there is
probably a confusion of tribes. They increased rapidly, however, reaching
about 600 in 1829 and some 800 in 1842; in 1871, when they were first
visited by Dorsey, they numbered 747. Up to this time the Ponca and
Sioux were amicable, but a
dispute grew out of the
cession of lands, and the Sioux made annual raids on the Ponca until the
enforced removal of the tribe to Indian Territory took place in 1877.
Through this warfare more than a quarter of the Ponca lost their lives.
The displacement of this tribe from lands owned by them in fee simple
attracted attention, and a commission was appointed by President Hayes in
1880 to inquire into the matter; the commission visited the Ponca
settlements in Indian Territory and on the Niobrara, and effected a
satisfactory arrangement of the affairs of the tribe, through which the
greater portion (some 600) remained in Indian Territory, while some 225
kept their reservation in Nebraska. The two bands now (1906) number,
respectively, 570 and 263; total, 833. Their lands have been allotted to
them in severalty. For the treaties made by the Ponca, see Treaties.
The divisions or gentes as given by Morgan (Anc. Soc.,
155, 1877) are as follows, the names following in parentheses being the
proper forms or definitions according to La Flesche:
1. Wasabe, 'grizzly bear' (properly black bear)
2. Deagheta (Dhihida), 'many people'
3. Nakopozna (Nikapashna), 'elk'
4. Mohkuh, 'skunk' (Moukou, 'medicine')
5. Washaba, 'buffalo'
6. Wazhazha, 'snake'
7. Nohga, 'medicine' (No6ghe, 'ice')
8. Wahga, 'ice' (Waga, 'jerked meat')
According to Dorsey, the tribe
is divided into two half-tribes, Chizhu and Wazhazhe. Each half-tribe
contains 4 gentes:
I. Chizhu half-tribe:
II. Wazhazhe half-tribe
The books presented are for their
historical value only and are not the
opinions of the Webmasters of the site.
of American Indians, 1906
Index of Tribes or Nations