Beginning April 29 in Niobrara, Nebraska, the Ponca Tribe sets off on a 282-mile walk commemorating the route of the tribe’s forced removal in the 1870s. Over 12 days, participants will walk, run, or bike along the route to Barneston, Nebraska. The route will closely resemble the route the Poncas ancestors were forced to to walk when they were removed from their homelands.
There will be stops along the way in Verdigre, Neligh, Newman Grove, Genoa, Columbus, Davis City, Seward/Milford, Crete, Wilber, and Beatrice. The walk will end on May 11 in Barneston with the Ponca Tribe signing a deed of ownership to a 19.5-mile segment of the Chief Standing Bear Trail from the Nebraska Trails Foundation and the Homestead Conservation and Trails Association.
“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,” Ponca Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Larry Wright Jr. told the Yankton Daily. “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. We will also honor the efforts of those that worked so hard to make the new historical marker by Seward honoring the tribe and the gravesite of Chief Standing Bear’s daughter, Prairie Flower. We welcome all who wish to share in this historical event to come walk with us and share in our celebration and fellowship.”
While main registration closed on April 1, participants and donations are still welcome. The Ponca Tribe Culture Department explained that late registrants may not receive a t-shirt for their participation, but those who registered by April 1 will. Registration can be done online, or at the tribal office, or even on April 29 for those who decide they want to participate at the last minute. Participants can join the route for segments or the entire journey.
Wright has a request for Ponca Tribe members as well: “I would like to call on tribal members to come forward and commit to carrying the eagle staff for the official relay for each day’s segment. This can be any combination of people—individuals, adults, children, families, etc. Our main objective is to have the staff be carried by Poncas for each segment each day, starting at 8 a.m. and finishing by 5 p.m. It doesn’t matter if we have 30 people carry it for a segment or 5 people carry it for a segment,” the message reads. “Let’s do it for our ancestors, those who died along the way, those who never again saw the homeland, for healing of our elders today who went through termination of our tribe, for those suffering today and for our next generations.”
An online information packet offers some suggestions for participants:
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Pack a snack
- Follow all laws and traffic signs
The walk is free to participate in, and all donations are used to cover costs associated with the walk. For more information, visit the event Facebook page.