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Donna's Journal
Big Snake Bridge



To the left is Brother, Dan Jones. The smaller girl is the Standing Bear Pow Wow Princess, the other girl is The Ponca Princess. The man in the back is Rolf, a photographer for the Northern Oklahoma College.

This is the story my brother, Dan Jones,  gave to the Ponca City News and I need to list it as the one taken from a congressional record of Big Snake's killing as accurate.  The story I heard about him having only a machete to fight the soldiers came from my own Native American Grandmother who told it to me when I was a young girl. According to Dan the congressional record is the true story.

Standing Bear won a decision in district court that said the forced move to Indian Territory was executed without rightful authority. Standing Bear's release was ordered. Big Snake interpreted this to mean that tribe members could not be confined to areas dictated by the government.

Big Snake went to the Ponca Indian Agency in October 1879 to collect pay owed to him and was unaware of an order from the federal government for his arrest.

When Big Snake, who had been imprisoned before, was told of his arrest, he sat, unarmed, on the floor of the agency. He was attacked by six men, one of whom shot him in the head.

Dan Jones described Big Snake as "a man of incredible physical and spiritual strength."

After Big Snake's death, personnel changes were made at the agency and policies restricting the travel of tribe members were changed.

Dan Jones, my brother, represented the Ponca tribe as their chairman at the ribbon cutting on June 30, 2005. The group of people who were in attendance were brave souls in that the heat was a real issue for people who were no longer considered to be young. It was bearing down on our heads with a determination all its own. Besides this, a constant wind swept a powdery dust, everywhere. Contact lense users would be, all of a sudden, blinded as were others.


The blessing of the bridge

My friend and I arrived earlier than anyone and had fun joking about what we were going to have to do if no one was to show up (we knew that wasn't going to happen). “Well, you get up and talk and I'll applaud and then, you get up and talk. I'll applaud for you. I can use my Ponca vocabulary, 'bread, water, smokes, crazy, and salt. Oh yes, I'll open with prayer, I know, ' God, 'Wah-Kahn-Dah.”

The young, serious looking, man who had now arrived with the huge ribbon cutting scissors and the wide roll of ribbon had a quiet wide smile over our jesting about something that was so serious to our tribe and the town, for that matter. Maybe he felt as foolish over having to carry the huge pair of scissors.

Soon, a rather nice, crowd of folks, were arriving and gathering about the speaker's stand which had been set up at the edge of the bridge. The hot sun seemed to be penetrating through even the umbrellas the women were holding. I wore a hat that protected my head but sooner than I expected I had to crowd under the umbrella with another woman and my friend. The three of us stood huddled together like comrades together in defiance of what had become our mutual enemy, the blazing, unrelenting sun.

The speeches were made, and then Cousin smoked off and blessed the bridge. I could smell the sweet odor of cedar as he took his feather and pushed the smoke on up to the sky. Something about it is always a feeling of reverence when the fragrance is wafted over the air. Even the wicked heat had to bow to it for a moment.

Everyone then retired to, E.W's mansion where a sumptuous feast was served to select towns people, senators, heads of entities and tribal members. My Brother, Dan Jones, gave a short speech to thank the Big Snake family descendants for allowing their name to be put on the bridge.

The money to build the bridge was donated by the Native Americans. This bridge will help to channel traffic into town and take some traffic off the other bridge and road. There have been two and three wrecks a week in the area before the other bridge because it is a bottle neck like area. Another road leading into the area was donated by the Osage tribe. It is a wide smooth blacktop highway. This will take some traffic off the bottleneck, also.

Several of the speakers made the same comment, “Let this bridge be a symbol of the co-operation that has gone on between governments, the sovereign nations, and other departments of our nation.”

This is a rather ironic outcome for a past fraught with sorrow and heavy suffering because of bloodshed. However, may we ever be thankful for the beauty of joint association for the common good.


The actual cutting of the ribbon


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