Walks on the Ground


Walks on the Ground

A Tribal History of the Ponca Nation

Louis V. Headman
Foreword by Sean O'Neill

570 pages
20 photographs, 4 illustrations, 2 maps, 1 appendix, index

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February 2020


$90.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

February 2020


$90.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

February 2020


$90.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Walks on the Ground is a record of Louis V. Headman’s personal study of the Southern Ponca people, spanning seven decades beginning with the historic notation of the Ponca people’s origins in the East. The last of the true Ponca speakers and storytellers entered Indian Territory in 1877 and most lived into the 1940s.

In Ponca heritage the history of individuals is told and passed along in songs of tribal members. Headman acquired information primarily when singing with known ceremonial singers such as Harry Buffalohead, Ed Littlecook, Oliver Littlecook, Eli Warrior, Dr. Sherman Warrior (son of Sylvester Warrior), Roland No Ear, and “Pee-wee” Clark. Headman’s father, Kenneth Headman, shared most of this history and culture with Louis. During winter nights, after putting a large log into the fireplace, Kenneth would begin his storytelling. The other elders in the tribe confirmed Kenneth’s stories and insights and contributed to the history Louis has written about the Ponca.

Walks on the Ground traces changes in the tribe as reflected in educational processes, the influences and effects of the federal government, and the dominant social structure and culture. Headman includes children’s stories and recognizes the contribution made by Ponca soldiers who served during both world wars, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. 


Author Bio

Louis V. Headman (Ponca elder) (Oklahoma) is the project coordinator of the Ponca Language Grant and pastor of the Church of the Nazarene in Ponca City. He is the author of Dictionary of the Ponca People (Nebraska, 2019). Sean O’Neill is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Cultural Contact and Linguistic Relativity among the Indians of Northwestern California and the coeditor of Northwest California Linguistics, volume 14 of The Collected Works of Edward Sapir.



"Headman has produced an important work for the Great Plains region and for the growing literature of Indigenous-produced histories."—Phoebe Labat, South Dakota History

"This superb history of the Ponca Nation is part of the University of Nebraska Press’s effort to publish First Nations’ histories written by native historians, rather than outsiders. . . . Throughout Headman amplifies, clarifies, and enriches topics, emphasizing Ponca as a distinct nation, though reduced in numbers over time. This substantial volume should be absorbed, not skimmed."—A. B. Kehoe, Choice

"Headman positions himself as one in a long and ongoing chain of Ponca storytellers, and by bringing together voices of a prior generation of tribal elders and adapting those stories to a written format, Headman participates in the long history of Ponca resiliency and adaptation Walks on the Ground narrates."—David Dry, Chronicles of Oklahoma

“This book is a jewel because it presents an insider’s view drawn from the insights of Ponca elders with whom the author talked during many years while simultaneously bringing outside scholarly assessments into the mix. Specialists on the American Indian, whether anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists, political scientists, or historians, as well as the general reader, will gain insights from the work.”—Blue Clark, professor of American Indian Studies at Oklahoma City University

“A welcome model of how to do collaborative ethnography from within a culture and how to synthesize and evaluate information from multiple sources. . . . This volume, in an accessible way, leads the reader toward an understanding of how to see the Ponca as the Ponca see themselves.”—Regna Darnell, Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and First Nations Studies at the University of Western Ontario

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Sean O’Neill
Phonetic Key
1. Beginnings
2. Niobrara
3. Trade Agreements, Indian Treaties, and Indian Removal
4. Chief Standing Bear
5. Indian Territory
6. The Selection of Ponca Chiefs
7. The Ponca Reservation in Oklahoma
8. Ethnography
9. The Ponca Giveaway
10. The Old Ponca Heđúškà
11. New Heđúškà Dance Paraphernalia
12. The Ponca Singers
13. Ponca Heđúškà Songs
14. Family Structure and Kinship System
15. Marriage and Property
16. Clans of the Ponca
17. Ponca Names
18. Toys, Games, and Sports
19. Arts and Crafts
20. The Ponca Native American Church
21. The Christian Church in the Ponca Community
22. The Spirit World
23. The Funeral Rites
24. Ancient Ponca Burials and Practices
25. Ponca Medicine
26. Journey to the School House
27. Into the School House
28. Warriors of the Ponca
29. Political Governance
Appendix: U.S. Treaty Obligations to Indian Tribes


2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

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