|At first I don't think the townspeople of Neligh fully realized just how much this meant to us and /or what we were doing. When they did, some started to shed tears. We had a Give Away honoring the oldest man and woman and we gave to the Mayor as well. We fed them Fry bread and soup. We all walked away feeling good about what we did.|
Now maybe for the first time on May 22nd, Tribal members of the Omaha Tribe, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, Ponca Tribe of Nebraska are all getting together to perform a Memorial Dinner to honor the townspeople of Neligh, remembering the past and hopefully, healing for the future. This is unprecedented to say the least, one for the record books. The Omaha Tribes, traditional social organization known as the Big Crazy Society will provide the meal and the two Ponca Tribes will have a giveaway, cedar ceremony and memorial singing, they will want to express themselves and say thank you to the descendants of the people who buried their relative all those years ago.
1877 was a sad and tragic time for the Ponca Indian, losing so many loved ones in such a short time. Having this ceremony hopefully will help heal and provide an opportunity to acknowledge something good were the Ponca had a hard time just thinking about. Imagine being uprooted from their ancestral homeland by force, going to a place they called the hot country, must have been devastating. The years that followed didn't get better, only through their faith in the Creator and perseverance did they survive. Today the Ponca tribe exists in two separate divisions but they share a common ancestry of the past.
At the park in Neligh, the meal starts at noon, once everybody has been fed, (we are cooking for at least 400) then the two Ponca Tribes will start their give away. I believe there is a plaque and a painting, a babies cradleboard, some Pendleton blankets maybe a shawl and such will be given away as a sign of respect and just to say thank you. Several tribal elders and family members are coming up from Oklahoma and Tribal Council Representatives from both tribes will be in attendance. Good words will be spoken, prayer and fellowship will mark the day. We will be having a traditional sweat lodge ceremony Saturday, at Niobrara hosted by members of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. For some it will be their first time back up here to their ancestral homeland and hopefully it will bring the two Ponca tribes closer together.