A section of biking and hiking trail from Beatrice to Barneston is now owned by the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.
A deed ceremony last week capped a Remembrance Walk tribal members took across the state.
Tribal chairman Larry Wright Junior says it was inspiring to be with fellow members every day on the walk that stretched from Niobrara to Barneston.
“To see their faces just ready to go every day, from our eldest to our youngest,” Wright says. “The oldest, the age was 73 and the youngest age was five.”
The near-20-mile trail will be known as the Chief Standing Bear Trail in honor of the Ponca chief whose people were banished from their homeland.
Judi Gaiashkibos, director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, says the history of the Ponca and other tribes is very important to tell in this 150th year of Nebraska Statehood.
“Many of our stories weren’t told,” Gaiashkibos says. “We were the hidden figures of Nebraska’s history. As we celebrate this year, the 150th celebration of Nebraska, it is only right that the First People should be honored and really be at the forefront.”
Gaiashkibos credited Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for promoting the idea of a Chief Standing Bear Trail. Tribe members hope to one day obtain a National Historic designation for the trail.
Randy Teboe, Cultural Affairs director for the Ponca Tribe, says it’s important to pass down the history of the tribe’s banishment and the role of Chief Standing Bear in gaining respect for Native Americans.
Teboe says taking tribe ownership of the trail section becomes a lasting reminder of Ponca history.
“When people come on this trail and ride this trail, they’re going to think about the Ponca Tribe and maybe talk about the Ponca Tribe,” Teboe says. “That little bit of awareness helps light that fire or plant that seed for a flower to grow in somebody’s head. It also brings awareness to non-Natives about the culture and the history.”
The tribe is assuming ownership of the trail section from the Nebraska Trails Foundation.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice