Official Tribal Name: Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
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Region: Great Plains
State(s) Today: Oklahoma
The Ponca Tribe signed several treaties in 1817, 1825, 1858, and was originally designated reservation lands along the Missouri River recognized in a treaty with the United States signed in 1865.
The Treaty of 1817 was a treaty of “peace and friendship” between the two nations. In the Treaty of 1825 the Poncas acknowledged that they lived within the “territorial limits of the United States” thereby recognizing the supremacy of the government. The Poncas also authorized the government to regulate all trade and commerce.
The third treaty, signed in 1858, nullified the Poncas’ title to all their lands occupied and claimed by them “except for a small portion on which to colonize or domesticate them.” The fourth and final treaty signed in 1865 ceded an additional 30,000 acres of their reserved land. This final treaty provided for a reservation of 96,000 acres in the present day Nebraska counties of Knox and Boyd.
It was the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 that forever altered the course of Ponca history. Among other things, it established the boundaries of the Great Sioux Reservation, which mistakenly included 96,000 acres of land that was the Ponca Reservation. The Ponca became trespassers in their own aboriginal homeland.
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The Ponca were never a large tribe. The tribe’s probable size in 1780 was estimated at 800. By 1804, largely because of smallpox, their numbers dwindled to around 200. By 1829, their population had increased to 600 and by 1842, to about 800. In 1906, the Ponca in Oklahoma numbered 570 and those in Nebraska, 263. The census of 1910 listed 875 Poncas, including 619 in Oklahoma and 193 in Kansas. By 1937, the Ponca population reached 1,222 with 825 in Oklahoma and 397 in Nebraska.
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