This has been the homeland of the Ponca Indians since earliest recorded history. In 1868, the federal government signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie which transferred the land to the Sioux without the permission of the Ponca. Treaties made with the government in 1858 had guaranteed their land to them. The Ponca were forcibly removed to Indian Territory in 1877. Unable to adjust to the climate of the South, many became ill and died. Among these was the son of Chief Standing Bear.
In January 1879, the chief and his small band left Indian Territory bearing the remains of his son for burial in Nebraska. When troops arrested the small band, white friends came to their aid. A landmark court decision, Standing Bear vs Crook, which determined that "an Indian is a person within the meaning of the law," did much to provide legal rights for all Indians. In 1977, Chief Standing Bear was elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
A Nebraska reservation was eventually assigned to the Northern Ponca. In 1962 the reservation was terminated. The Northern Ponca were reinstated as a federally-recognized tribe on October 31, 1990.