This is a class for the
Ponca women's language.
One of the first things we must tell you is that there is a difference
in women's language and the men's language. For example, Men greet each
“A-ho (hello).” Women do not say this word, “A-ho.”
Women end their sentences with a lilt in their voice and with an ah
In the men's language they end their sentences with their voice coming
down lower and they end their sentences with “gah.” A man might say (sit
A woman would say, “Gah-the'-ahn” (sit down).
When a man speaks to a woman he says, “Gah-the'-ah” leaving off the
The woman uses the word “Gah” in this way. “Gah.” (Here it is, I
Now, as is the custom with Ponca people to always offer up a prayer
when we meet together for a purpose, and this so we can be relaxed and be
inspired to learn our own language so that we can continue to be a tribe.
Pray that we can clear our mind of any cobwebs. The word for open is Te-Shee'-bah.
From the dictionary we find the meaning for culture and it is: an
idea. a custom, skill, art, a civilization. Some of the history of this
Ponca culture tells that in AD 70 th Ponca were woodland people from
around Mississippi. The legend told that they came from where the sun
rises (east). They said it was as if they woke up one morning on a long
Wah-Kahn (God) spoke to them. He told them they could not stay on the
sand bar because the ocean would come in and devour them. “You must go to
that high cliff.” He told them. “Go before the sun sets or you will be
washed away. There is a way, but you have to look for it.”
Someone found a path that was like a bridge. At the end of it they had
to squeeze through a crevice that was very narrow. Some had large bundles
and they couldn't get through. The ones with small bundles could go
through. Some threw the things from their bundles and they were floating
in the water. It was their wish to keep their things so they begged others
to go down in the water to get the things.
“No!-Wah-Kahn told them. Those things are like the jealousy, the hate,
the grudges you have and they will hold you back. Get busy, build a
shelter for the night because it will be cold.
Every day Wah-Kahn-Dah or the Maker, Wah-a-hah spoke to them. The word
for skin “ska.”
One day the white men, Columbus, Coranado, those, came to the shores.
They were fair skinned. Because Wah-Kahn had told the Ponca he would
return one day the people thought the explorers were Wah-Kah-Dah. So they
“Wah-Ah-Hay,” meaning they were Gods. Of course, we all know what happened
after that and until this day when we have lost our land, our homes, and
as we fight to maintain just that we now are threatened with loss of our
language. Suzanne said, “Pass what you know on, let us all
learn again to speak and honor each other with our good ways.
There are no swear words in the Ponca language. You can make some up
if you wish to call names. And promptly some were called from the
audience, such as “See-Tonga,” Big feet and so on. Laughter rippled
through the room.
There are Ponca songs that have been saved through the efforts of the
older ones now gone. Lamont Brown was one of those who saved the songs on
78 disks. The disks were passed around and about all over allowing many to
learn the songs.
A joke was told about how Lamont could sing for four days non-stop
and never sing the same song. He said, “That's a lie! I can sing for ten
days non-stop and never sing the same song twice.” More laughter greeted
the teller of the joke.
These songs are used by all the tribes all over the nation and into
Canada. They are Ponca songs and tell of happenings and history of our
tribe. One is so funny. It says, “Hello Honey, I'll be over to get you in
my Model-T,” and this is the fun loving ways of the peaceful Ponca of old.
Suzanne tells that phonetics can go just so far with our language and
then comes a higher level to learn.
One thing she emphasized was that: Women speak in a softer language.
They put feeling into their speech. For instance, if they are at a funeral
they might say, “The-te-dah,” or Howww areeee they going to get along
without their loved one?”
If someone is hurt they might say, “Thou-a'-chawahthee! Or Thou aaaaa'
cha-wah-thee,” pronounced and expressed with deep feeling.