Ponca, Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Siouan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). According to tradition the group lived in the Ohio valley but migrated to the mouth of the Osage River. There the Ponca and the Omaha separated from the main Siouan group and went to SW Minnesota. War with the Sioux forced the Ponca to flee to the Black Hills, in South Dakota. The Ponca subsequently rejoined their allies and moved to the mouth of the Niobrara River, in Nebraska. The Ponca remained there, but the other groups moved on. Lewis and Clark met them in 1804 when the Ponca, recovering from a smallpox epidemic, numbered only some 200. The Ponca's culture was of the Plains area; they farmed corn and hunted buffalo. Raids by the Sioux forced the Ponca to migrate to Oklahoma in 1877. A commission appointed (1880) by President Rutherford B. Hayes studied the land claims of the Ponca; as a result most of them remained in Oklahoma, while a group numbering some 200 returned to their former home in Nebraska. In 1990 there were about 2,800 Ponca in the United States.

See J. H. Howard, The Ponca Tribe (1965); J. Jablow, Ethnohistory of the Ponca (1974).

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