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Native Indian Lore
Notes from Suzanne, Makescrye, WhiteEagle's language class: 1-23-06


   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 other,
“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 sound.
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 down) Gah-the'-ah-gah-ho.
    A woman would say, “Gah-the'-ahn” (sit down).
    When a man speaks to a woman he says, “Gah-the'-ah” leaving off the Gah-ho.
    The woman uses the word “Gah” in this way.  “Gah.”  (Here it is,  I give it
to you.”

    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 sandbar.
    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 called them
“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 the old
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.


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