Ponca City (Pawnee: Riihitawiruʾ, Riíhitawiru, Riihitáwiru ) is a small city in Kay and is partly in Osage counties in the U.S. state of Oklahoma, which was named after the Ponca Tribe. Located in north central Oklahoma, it lies approximately south of the Kansas border, and approximately east of Interstate 35. Ponca City had a population of 25,387 at the time of the 2010 census, making it the largest city in Kay County. The city is near the Arkansas River, the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, Kaw Lake, and Lake Ponca, which all provide numerous recreational opportunities.
Ponca City lies on approximately of land, and also has approximately of water, for a total area of . The city is served by the Ponca City Regional Airport (PNC), and is accessible by US-60, US-177, OK-11, and I-35.
History and the Petroleum Industry
Native American History
Until recently, European Americans' accounts of their settlement and the growth of the oil industry in Ponca City have often overshadowed both the long ancient history of indigenous peoples in the area, as well as those tribes who were resettled to Oklahoma in the nineteenth century under Indian Removal. The long history of the area's Native American population and its influences on the culture and history of the city and its environs.
Ponca City is named after the Ponca Tribe, part of which was relocated from Nebraska to northern Oklahoma from 1877 to 1880. Like all of the forced American Indian removals of the 19th century, the Poncas' trek was arduous. Followed by the government's failure to provide adequate supplies, as well as malaria at their destination, nearly one-third of the Ponca died from illness and exposure. "Out of 700 Ponca who left the Nebraska reservation, 158 died in Oklahoma within two years."
The Ponca protested their conditions. Standing Bear's oldest son died in 1879. The chief had promised to bury him in his homeland, and about 60 Ponca accompanied him back to Nebraska. The US Army was ordered to arrest them for having left the reservation, and they were confined to Fort Omaha. Most of the tribal members who left eventually returned to the reservation in Oklahoma. With the aid of prominent attorneys working pro bono, Standing Bear filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging his arrest. The case of Standing Bear v. Crook (1879) was a landmark decision in the US District Court, where the judge ruled that Indians had the same legal rights as other United States citizens.
A statue was erected in his honor at the intersection of Highway 60 and Standing Bear Parkway in Ponca City. In the late twentieth century, the city developed a park and museum, named in his honor.
The Ponca Nation, which has kept its headquarters south of Ponca City since 1879, played a major part in the development of the Marland Oil Co. and the city. Chief White Eagle leased resource-containing portions of the tribe's allotted land to E.W. Marland in 1911 for oil exploration and development.
Since the late 20th century, the Ponca Tribe has worked to build its infrastructure and improve services for its people. In February 2006, the tribe received a grant of more than $800,000 from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota for debt retirement and economic development.
Nearby north-central tribes are the Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee and Tonkawa. These are all federally recognized tribes, as is the Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. In 1994 the six tribes established the Standing Bear Foundation and Pow-wow, beginning the first of annual shared pow-wows, to which they invite the public. They wanted to build collaboration among the tribes and with the non-Native residents of Ponca City. The pow-wow is now held in Standing Bear Park, which was named in honor of the notable Ponca chief.