Monday, May 30, 2011

Original Nebraska Tribes honor small farmtown

Original Nebraska Tribes honor the town of Neligh,
May 22nd 2011

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.
White Buffalo Girl died May 23, 1877, on the fourth day of Ponca Tribes forced removal to Oklahoma. The parents of the child were not allowed to bury their daughter in a traditional manner, so they asked the local townspeople to help them. A relative of White Buffalo girl asked that they take care of the grave as if it were their own and so the people of Neligh did just that, they have put flowers on her grave every year. In this day of treaties, contracts, legal forms Memorandum of Agreements and all, it is well worth noting that this was just a group of Nebraska settlers who simple gave their word and kept it for the past 134 years.

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.

This picture shows two shadows are the parents with flowers leading to a little girl with a white buffalo standing next to her. The flowers represent the flowers the townspeople of Neligh have laid all these years. My relative Sid Armstrong, Otoe/Ponca really did a great job in creating this image, in memory of WhiteBuffalo Girl, he is truly gifted.

The weekend went well, some say at least 400 to 500 townspeople came together with the two Ponca Tribes and the Big Crazy Society of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska for the memorial dinner of White Buffalo Girl in Neligh Ne. We had a Give Away honoring the Oldest Man and Woman in the town and we gave the city itself some gifts as well,we fed them Soup & Frybread. Once the townspeople caught on to what we were doing some shed tears and were thankful..  This painting was given to the town in memory of White Buffalo Girl and as a tribute to the town for keeping its word to a brokenhearted Ponca Indian family. So many tragic stories in the late 1800's it was good to remember something like this. Artist was Sid Armstrong who is from Ponca City Oklahoma donated the artwork to the town of Neligh Ne. All in all we did the best we could in honoring both the town and our little relative who died along the trail. Looking back on this, it was truly a very sacred moment in time.