Published through the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the
Americas initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Dictionary of the Ponca People presents approximately five
thousand words and definitions used by Ponca speakers from the late
nineteenth century to the present. Until relatively recently, the
Ponca language had been passed down solely as part of an oral
tradition in which children learned the language at home by
listening to their elders. Almost every family on the southern
Ponca reservation in Oklahoma spoke the language fluently until the
1940s, when English began to replace the Ponca language as children
entered government boarding schools and were forced to learn
English. In response to demand, Ponca language classes are now
being offered to children and adults as people seek to gain
knowledge of this important link to tradition and culture.
The approximately five thousand words in this volume encompass
the main artery of the language heard and spoken by the parents and
grandparents of the Ponca Council of Elders. Additional words
are included, such as those related to modern devices and
technology. This dictionary has been compiled at a time when
the southern Poncas are initiating a new syntactic structure to the
language, as few can speak a full sentence. This dictionary is not
intended to recover a cultural period or practice but rather as a
reference to the spoken language of the people.