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American History
Clans of the Ponca

Our thanks to Donna Flood for this most interesting contribution

Yes, there was, of course, great intermarriage between the Scots and my mother's people. The Native culture is as strong as the Scots and the two people were compatible. I will try to elaborate.

Probably, the word "clans," itself came from the Scot, I'll have to ask mother what the word for clan is in her language. Her mother's clan was He-Sah-Dah, or rain maker. When these people expire there is always rain, and sometimes in great torrents. The family would take a glass of water to set on their grave in the belief this would stop the rain. When my father, Lee Otis Jones died we buried him in our Indian cemetery since this is where mother will be buried, no place else but with her ancestors. My father loved my mother with a passion that could be a story all it's own and I have touched on it in a short story called, "The Stones Will Cry Out."

I planted a tree at my father's grave and since it is such a dry clay hill, even when it rains, I was taking water out there every day. We had such rains that year, it was flooding, and it was getting to be quite a problem. I came in from taking water out there and mother said, "Where have you been?" When I told her what I was doing, she said, "You haven't been putting water on your Dad's grave?" Needless to say I didn't take any more water out there.

The rainmaker clan was also called the "straight path people." They parted their hair down the middle of their head to show their clan. Later most of the people followed their example in wearing their hair in this manner. The men wore long hair, but it was not allowed for them to wear it loose. It had to be braided and was usually worn with colored yarn or leather woven in the braids and tied at the bottom of the braids. My brother is a script writer in Los Angeles, California and he still wears his hair like this. The women also were required to not cut their hair and to wear it up usually twisted into a tight bun at the back of their neck. The only time is was cut was at the time of a death of a loved one. At that time they cut it bluntly in two or three passes until it was chopped off. Some still practice this. My mother cut hers the moment she heard of her mother's death. It was a shock to see the long beautiful shining black locks fall away from her head.

The straight path people held the responsibility of praying for rain. Their prayers were said to be answered if they had kept their straight path. If there was a thief in the group they were said to be able to pray for blood to rain upon that one's teepee and it would happen. They were the people who were responsible for dividing and portioning out the food after a hunt in conjunction with the Blood Clan people who were of the chief's clan.

Each clan had their chief or elder. He was the patriarch of that family group. Sometimes there would be several over one group as with my ancestors over their group, Standing Bear, Buffalo Hide, Standing Pony, Broken Jaw all of whom were brothers. In this manner our tribe became divided, Standing Bear returning to Nebraska while some of his family stayed here.

The year after my father's death my brother brought back the writings of Tibbles out of our archives regarding this split in the tribe. He put the writing into a documentary and it was aired nationally as "The Trial of Standing Bear." The video is on sale here in town at the Pioneer Woman Museum. It is a wonderful story. It shows the judge of presided over the trial and he was no doubt, of Scottish descent. The way Standing Bear won his case was: He appeared in court in his tribal dress, striking in its richness. I believe the thing that caused the judge to rule in his favor was his statement. "I had a vision, I saw my son (his son had died on their trek from Nebraska to Oklahoma), "I saw my son, but I was not able to speak to him, because there was someone standing in my way, and that someone was you." He then pointed a finger directly at the judge.

The case was being tried to see if Standing Bear could be considered as a human or as an animal. Certainly the strong convictions of the judge could see Standing Bear was not only reasoning like a human, with a belief in a hereafter, but even on a higher plane such as one of royalty in that he had seen a vision.

I am not banned from following my grandmother's clan of   the rainmakers, since you can see, my father not of Native blood was still respected to have their gifts. However, out of respect for the tribe one is more or less expected to announce their heritage as that of half-breed through their costume's design etc. This is fine with me since we are given a kind of special privilege. They say, "you are half-breed, you can do what you want! Ho! Ho! Ho!"

Just as it is not easy to adhere to the clans of Scotland's traditions I'm sure, neither is it easy to be a good Indian. The laws are complex and expected to be followed. My husband is Anglo, but he knows better than to sit beside my mother or sit alone with her at the table. She won't speak to him about it but she would say to me, "Sister, don't let him sit at the table alone with me, I might have to give away a horse!" She is joking but serious, in other words when the laws are broken then one must forfeit something of value, I suppose like we pay a fine for breaking the speeding laws.

The Ponca's were not warlike. Their name means, gentle leaders, literally Pah ca. "nose," or that part of the face that goes before the rest of the body. The old folks would say it like this: Peace with me in everything I do, peaceful movement, slow and deliberate, steadiness with discipline for my children that they may be well behaved, not laughing loud or talking loud and course to disrupt peaceful association, Peace with me, and peace all about me."

Needless to say, many of the old ways are all but gone and they are missed. Today they have the same problems as everyone else, divorce, alcoholism, suicide, drug addition etc. etc. Not too be negative there are many who still cling to some parts of the traditions and this is refreshing.

At funerals the family "give away."  This was meant to cleanse their environment of all memories and let the possessions go on living that they might see them move before them to remind them of their loved ones departure in a way to say they were continuing on in a "Happy Hunting Ground."  They would literally strip their homes of furniture, everything in this give away. Today, this practice is usually held in with monies spent at the department stores, filling baskets with towels, groceries, or whatever. It is something akin to the original custom, just that money now is the exchange. Somehow, it looses it's original purpose. One of the give away items is a Scottish beautiful tartan fabric fringed with yarn in a cross over pattern. It is called the old lady shawl. I have one in the Stewart red. I cherish it, since it came from an elder lady who calls herself my grandmother. Grandmother Lucille Feathers. She named my children, the girls.

This year my sister took a lot of teasing because she danced at our local Standing Bear Pow Wow in my tartan shawl. She is a grandmother but looks so young, some thought she was taking on the weight of the shawl a little too early. She said, "I was cold and it felt good."

I know you probably think this is like a small book, but actually it is only "a drop in the bucket," compared to the total story. I haven't even mentioned the beautiful shirts my Scottish grandmother Bell sewed from lovely rich colored silks all in the same style of those worn by the Scots today. The shirt is still worn by our men also, during their ceremonies believe she helped them make their transition from their native dress through the shirts she sewed.

The meat pies the women cook are practically identical to the ones served at the Scottish festivals.

In closing I would like to mention my art work is on display at the Rose Stone Inn here in Ponca City, Oklahoma should anyone happen to be in Oklahoma they will surely want to see this little town. A prominent feature is the "Castle on the Prairie," home of the oil baron, E.W. Marland and his second wife Lydie. There are many touches that are obviously Scottish since I'm sure these were somewhere in his roots. At any rate it is a giant work of art in every direction one can look.

Clans of the Ponca Tribe by artist Donna C. Flood
"Clans of the Ponca Tribe"
by artist Donna C. Flood

4-ft x 8-ft Mural
On exhibit in the U.S. Post Office at
Ponca City, Kay County, Oklahoma

[Psalms 91:4.  This is the scripture to inspire the post office mural

God's Wings
An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God's wings.

After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings would live. 

"He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge." (Psalm 91:4)

Being loved this much should make a difference in your life. Remember the One who loves you and then be different because of it. Please pass this on to others you care about and don't drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly.]

I was nine when Gramma Bell died. Since it was a cold lonely place on the prairie the folks would let me stay the winter months with her in town in order to go to school. We were very close and she was constantly teaching me. I was too young for her to talk to about her family and it makes me sad I didn't get to know them through her. It was just her teachings small things I remember, "Come in, sit thee down,"  was a pet saying she had I loved. It was different and rare in some way and I didn't understand at the time why. Her father's name was Nathaniel Stewart Collins. E.W. Marland, the oil baron here was married to a Collins, and my Uncle was a good friend to her brother Sam Collins, he said they were cousins. A friend who does genealogy says she didn't find the Collins in Scotland. Nathaniel Stewarts wife Elizabeth Ann Brewer's mother was a Hunter, one Mary Amerika Hunter. The family has many John Hunters. This friend found a John Hunter in Scotland she feels is my grandparent. It was a sad history of his rebellion against the prominent religion of the country. I need to do more research to see how my grandmother, Mary Amerika Hunter was tied to him.

One more thing to share, we had a beautiful wedding for my blue eyed dark haired girl. Since it was a mix between the Native people and our family, we held it in a large stone summer house close to the lake. A piper came from Tulsa and played for us. It was so striking, him there in his kilt, playing his bagpipes at the top of the little rise beside the heavy stone structure. As he began to play,  people from all over the area just automatically began to gather. While she ascended the long, wide stone steps on her father's arm the piper played, "My Bonnie Laddie." It was a rare wedding and made quite a statement in this little town.

After Dad passed away I was going over the pictures at family gathering and I noticed he was always holding up a silver long stemmed goblet. I knew he was trying to tell me something but didn't know what until I visited an elderly aunt close by. She had a silver goblet over her sink she used. She was the one who gave me the information leading me to the places where family was buried and to hordes of cousins I didn't know I had, all over this country. She said Nathaniel Steward Collins father was Jesse Collins and he was from Scotland and that is all I have at this point. I do have Jesse's property maps in Bolivar, Missouri and in Arkansas. At about the time I was heavy into research the children were growing up in their teen years, so I just stopped but with this wonderful new hope you have given me I'm so anxious to find out more. Anyway, this will be so much easier than the way I had to work before, making telephone calls, going to libraries, searching through old newspaper clippings, traveling to see elderly cousins, etc. My aunt Jewel's mind was so brilliant. She knows by memory the birthdays of any of the children born into the family, and that was a help.

The clans of the Ponca Tribe:
These clans were shared with me by Melvin Hardman shortly before he passed away circa 1975.
1. Ice
2. Buffalo
3. Chief's (represented by the large eagle)
4 Warrior (represented by the boy in the mural)
5. Rain (my signature)
6. Osage (represented by the spider)
7. Half breed (represented by the redbird)
8. Bear
9. Deer
10. Elk
11. Medicine (represented by the gatherers)
12. unavailable

There are presently only seven or eight remaining clans at this time at 2001. They are listed at the base of the Standing Bear Statue in Ponca City, Ok.

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