The Ponca tribe lived near the mouth of the Niobrara River. These three tribes, Otoe, Omaha and Ponca were closely related and spoke languages much alike. The Ponca tribe numbered between 1,000 and 2,000.
The Ponca were thought of as the most successful Indian farmers. Sometimes they killed the animals by driving them into the water or ice. They hunted buffalo for food and clothing. The main birds hunted were geese, ducks, and grouse. Eagles, hawks, owls, crows, and pheasants were hunted for their feathers. Eagle feathers were particularly valued to the Ponca tribe.
The Ponca ate buffalo, wild game and fish. The women also looked for plants that they could eat. They ate wild rice, wild onions, wild sweetpeas. Some of the fruits that they ate were wild rasberries, wild plums, cherries and wild grapes. Sugar was made from the maple tree. One of their favorite desserts was wild honey mixed with nuts. Beans, squashes, pumpkins, corn and a type of watermelon were also important to the Ponca. They also ate fried bread.
The Ponca had four different houses. These are the different kinds of homes. The round earth lodge, the bark wigwam, the long lodge, and the tipi. The earth lodge and the tipi were the most common homes used by the Ponca. The earth lodge was circular. It's walls were about 8 feet high and it had a dome-shaped roof with an opening for smoke and light. The earth lodges were built by men and women. They were used mostly in the summer months.
The tipi was built in the form of a cone. They used about 9 or 10 buffalo skins and the poles were about 14 to 16 feet long. It was the women's job to set up and make the tipi. The entrance to the tipi usually faced to the west when the tribe was traveling.
The Ponca man wore moccasins, leggings, breechcloths and belts in the summer. In the winter they wore buckskin shirts, fur caps, robes or blankets and mittens. They alos wore soled moccasins. The Ponca men carried their weapons with them at all times.
The women wore high-topped moccasins, knee-length leggings, deer or elkskin dresses and wide belts. Men and women both wore blankets or robes in the winter and for special times. Although for most dances, ceremonies, and public events all men and women turned out in their finest attire, some rites called for special costuming.
The Ponca used many things from nature to heal their people. If you had a snake bite you would use a splint made of tree bark. If a member of the tribe got a snake bite they told the medicine man. He would come and dig a hole by the fire and suck poison out of them.The Ponca used herbs for medicine.The bottom of a cattail was used for burns and scalds. The rootstock was chewed for a cough cure and a cure for a toothache. The blue flag rootstock was used for an earache. Combplant was used as a cure for a snakebite and for other stings. As a cure for toothaches a piece of the combplant was kept on a painful tooth. The bottom of the cattail was used by Ponca mothers. It was used for a talcum for their babies. When the babies teeth began coming in they were given a piece of dried up meat to chew on and help their teeth.
The Ponca used horses for transportation. The horses were very important to them. They were herded near the village by the boys of the tribe. The horses grazed daily in the summer on the prairie grass and in the winter they were kept in a river-bottom near wooded land where they could browse on willow and cottonwood. The Ponca got their horses from trading with other tribes or stealing. Usually wild horses were avoided. To break their horses for riding, the people would put the horse in 3 feet of water and place a small boy on top. This made it difficult for the horse to buck. If the boy was bucked off, he would not be hurt. If a horse was unusually wild, they would starve him. The best horses were usually used for war and chasing buffalo.
The poorer animals were used to pull the travois and to carry the women and children. The travois was made of two tipi poles which were tied together so that they crossed at the horse's shoulder bones. A sling was tied between the two free ends of the poles. This is where the people or the goods they were transporting were put.
Before the horse, the dog was used by the Ponca. The dog pulled the travois and carried packs and sometimes children and sick people.
*Once in a while coyote pups were kept as pets.
* Eagle feathers were particularly valued to the Ponca tribe.
*Trapping for furs did not seem to be very important to the Ponca in the 18th century.
* Many of the Ponca objects were made of wood. Examples are bows and arrows, spears and war clubs.
* The Ponca were one of the best tribes at farming.
* The Ponca moved to different villages a lot.