Ponca Tribe hosts 282-mile walk to retrace trail of forced removal

A statue of Chief Standing Bear, a leader of the Ponca Tribe, in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Photo: Matt Howry

The Ponca Tribe is walking 282 miles in Nebraska to commemorate the forced removal of its ancestors.

The Ponca Remembrance Walk begins April 29 in Niobrara, near the northern border of Nebraska, and concludes May 11 in Barneston on the southern border. The route closely traces the path that the Ponca people were forced to take in 1877, when the federal government told them to move to a reservation in present-day Oklahoma.

“As we mark the 140th anniversary of the forced removal of the Ponca Nation, we honor our ancestors who have gone before us and commemorate their sacrifice and loss while also celebrating where we are as a nation today and look forward for our future generations,” Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said.

The conclusion of the walk will be accompanied by a special ceremony in Barneston. The tribe will sign a deed to take possession of a 230-acre parcel that is part of the Chief Standing Bear Trail.

The trail is named for Standing Bear, a Ponca leader who refused to stay in Oklahoma and returned to his homeland in Nebraska to bury his son. After being arrested for defying the government, he won a landmark court decision in 1879 that said he was a "person" under federal law.

“We celebrate and offer our thanks for the generous donation of land that honors our nation and provides opportunities for the public as a whole,” Chairman Wright said of the land being returned to the tribe.

Citizens of the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, who are descendants of those who stayed in Oklahoma, also will be taking part of the Remembrance Walk.

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