Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Navigate / Profile / Search


Enter Title


How do you pronounce the word "Ponca"? What does it mean?

It's pronounced "pong-kah," and it was the name of a tribal town.

Where do the Poncas live?

The Ponca Indians are original people of original people of Nebraska and South Dakota. The Northern Poncas are still living in Nebraska today, but the Southern Poncas were forced to move to a reservation in Oklahoma during the 1800's.  

What language do the Ponca Indians speak?

Most Ponca people speak English today. However, many Poncas, especially elders, also speak their native Omaha-Ponca language, which they shared with the neighboring Omaha tribe. If you'd like to know an easy Ponca word, "aho" (pronounced ah-hoe) is a friendly greeting.

How do Ponca Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?

They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Ponca children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids.

A Ponca mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Ponca tribe?

Ponca men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Ponca women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Only men became Ponca chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Ponca homes like in the past?

The Hidatsa Indians lived in settled villages of round earthen lodges. Hidatsa lodges were made from wooden frames covered with packed earth. When Hidatsa men went on hunting trips, they often used small buffalo-hide tipis (or teepees) as temporary shelter, similar to camping tents.

What was Ponca clothing like? Did the Poncas wear feather headdresses and face paint?

Ponca women wore long deerskin dresses. Ponca men wore breechcloths with leather leggings and buckskin shirts. The Poncas wore moccasins on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes. A Ponca lady's dress or warrior's shirt was fringed and often decorated with porcupine quills, beadwork, and white ermine fur.

Ponca Indian leaders sometimes wore the long warbonnets that Plains Indians are famous for, but feather caps were more traditional. Omaha women usually wore their hair in two long braids. Some Ponca men wore their hair long.

Others, especially warriors, shaved their heads except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads) and wore a porcupine roach. The Poncas wore tribal tattoos and also painted their faces for special occasions.

What was Ponca transportation like in the days before cars?

Ponca Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built bowl-shaped rafts out of willow rods and buffalo hide. Over land, the Poncas used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.

What was Ponca food like in the days before supermarkets?

The Ponca Indians were farming people. Ponca women worked together to harvest crops of corn, beans, squash, and pumpkins. Men hunted deer and small game, fished in the rivers and lakes, and took part in seasonal buffalo hunts.

What were Ponca weapons and tools like in the past?

Ponca hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Ponca men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and hide shields.

What are Ponca arts and crafts like?

Ponca artists are famous for their quill embroidery, beadwork, and pottery. Here is a museum website with photographs of different Ponca art forms.

What kinds of stories do the Poncas tell?

There are lots of traditional Ponca legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Ponca Indian culture. I do not know of any Ponca legends available online, but this Omaha Indian legend, about a two-faced ogre, is similar to one told by the Poncas. The Omaha and Ponca Indians are kinfolk, and many of their traditional stories are similar.