Midlands Voices: Ponca Tribe’s initiatives show community commitment

In August, I had the honor and privilege to unveil a new, 11-foot, bronze statue of Chief Standing Bear in Niobrara, Nebraska. Situated on a hill overlooking tribal land, the statue honors our tribe’s past, while having a bird’s-eye view of what lies ahead. In many ways, the statue and its peak position are symbolic of the two worlds the Ponca Tribe lives in –- working to preserve and promote our cultural heritage, while putting in motion a service model that will provide for our people well into the future.

Our tribe is on the precipice of continued growth after a long, hard-fought journey. Our people were forcibly removed from our tribal land by the federal government in the late 1800s, which meant our ancestors had to leave everything they had behind. In the 1960s, the federal government terminated our tribe, meaning that our land, holdings and cultural heritage were dissolved, and our people were removed from tribal rolls. For the second time, everything we had was taken from us.