Omaha-Ponca is a Siouan language belonging to the Dhegiha group in the Mississippi Valley branch. The number of speakers is not known, but it is probably a majority of those Omahas born before WW II (several dozen?), and about a dozen among the Southern Ponca. The Omaha (UmaNhaN) center is the Omaha Reservation in Thurston County, Nebraska, especially around the town of Macy, near the Missouri River. The Ponca (PpaNkka) are represented by a group in Nebraska (the Northern Ponca) and a group in Oklahoma (the Southern Ponca). The other Dhegiha dialects or languages are Kansa or Kansas ("Kaw"), Osage, and Quapaw (Arkansas). Intelligibility between the dialects varied with the pair and the direction in question. Differences between Omaha and Ponca are barely perceptible to outsiders.
Documentation on Omaha-Ponca is somewhat sparse and tends to be unpublished or underpublished. Some fairly extensive manuscript grammars exist: Dorsey ms a, anon ms, and Koontz 1984 ms, diss mms. The only published grammars are the sketches by Boas (Boas 1907 and Boas & Swanton 1911). Grammars of other Mississippi Valley Siouan languages, when available, can be used as generic supplements by adepts.
The only published dictionary is a vocabulary by Swetland (1977). Dorsey ms b is a very large slip file. These can be supplemented in a general way with lexical materials for Kansa, Osage, Quapaw, and Ioway-Otoe-Missouria, e.g., particularly LaFlesche 1932.
There is a good text collection (Dorsey 1890 and 1891), plus some unpublished texts by LaFlesche. These are available as computer files and searching them can supplement the lexical materials. Some texts have been collected recently by Rudin, Koontz, Shea, and others (Mangan et al.). Koontz (1996 ms) has prepared one of Dorsey's texts in interlinear format and modern orthography, with a glossary. Access to material on Omaha-Ponca is made more difficult by the fact that almost every reference has its own orthography.
There is a fairly extensive anthropological literature on the Omaha and to a lesser extent on the Ponca.
Anonymous. ms. The Ponca Language. American Philosophical Society Archives. Gordon Marsh Papers. 120 p. Probably the work of Frida Hahn, an unmatriculated student of Boas. It seems to have been lent to Marsh, another of Boas's unmatriculated students, so he could prepared a typed copy for his own use. [Failure to matriculate, massive unfinished manuscripts, premature death, etc., are something of a tradition in Siouan studies.] There is a table of contents prepared by Koontz.
Boas, Franz. 1907. Notes on the Ponka Grammar. 15th International Congress of Americanists, Proceedings 2:217-37.
Boas, Franz and Swanton, James R. 1911. Siouan (Dakota) in Handbook of American Indian Languages I. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 40:875-965. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. Contains conmingled descriptions of Teton, Omaha-Ponca, and Hochank (Winnebago). A variant of Boas 1907 as concerns Omaha-Ponca, but with some additional material at the end. LaFlesche has primarily orthographic comments on this, with some corrections, in APS manuscript Freeman 2559 (part of the Boas Collection).
Dorsey, James Owen. ms a. A Grammar of the Ponka Language. National Anthropological Archives. Dorsey Papers 217 and 122. xviii, 153 p. and 4 large tables. Based initially on Riggs' Santee grammar as far as language, theory, and organization. Begun early and continued at intervals thereafter. At Dorsey's death still in mid-revision, including changes in orthography, of course, and filed in two separate parts, not counting other supplemental manuscripts. There is a table of contents prepared by Koontz.
Dorsey, James Owen. ms b. C/egiha slip file. National Anthropological Archives. Dorsey Papers. c. 20,000 slips. There are also separate slip files of personal names and placenames, as well as various specialized manuscripts.
Dorsey, James Owen. 1890. The Cegiha Language. North American Ethnography, Contributions 6. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. xviii, 794 pp. Available as a sturdy reprint from Amazon.COM. Currently (Dec. 2000) about $130, which is about what the more fragile original would cost. The publisher of the reprint appears to be Reprint Services Corp., PO Box 890820, Temecula, CA92589-0820. (Information courtesy Amazon.COM via Kathy Shea.)
Dorsey, James Owen. 1891. Omaha and Ponka Letters. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 11. 127 pp. Currently available as a reprint from Amazon.COM. Price about $80.00. Same observations as above, except the original would probably be more expensive as it would be bound with the remainder of the BAE Report. The publisher of the reprint appears to be Reprint Services Corp., PO Box 890820, Temecula, CA92589-0820. (Information courtesy Amazon.COM via Kathy Shea.)
Hahn, Frida. See Anonymous ms.
Koontz, John E. 1984 ms. Preliminary Sketch of the Omaha-Ponca Language. Submitted in completion of the non-native language paper requirement for the Ph.D. in Linguistics, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO. 278 p.
Koontz, John E. 1996 ms. Interlinear Analysis with Glossary of Dorsey, James O. 1890. The Cegiha Language (CNAE 6), text 'Battle between the Dakotas and Omahas in 1847' (as told by Two Crows, aka Lewis Morris). In preparation for Dennis Hastings, Walthill, NE. Circulated in November 1996.
Koontz, John E. diss mms. Chapters of Dissertation on Omaha-Ponca Morphology, including phonology, outline of morphology, color terms, kinship terms.
LaFlesche, Francis. 1932. A Dictionary of the Osage Language. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 109. 406 p. In an Omaha-Ponca-influenced orthography, with Omaha-ized inflectional forms, and sporadic notes on Omaha-Osage matches.
LaFlesche, Francis. ms. Omaha texts. American Philosophical Society Archives. Boas Collection. Texts written and prepared by LaFlesche for Boas's use. Perhaps publication was intended.
Swetland, Mark, compiler. 1977. Umonhon Iye of Elizabeth Stabler. A
vocabulary of the Omaha language with an Omaha to English Lexicon. [John Mangan,]
Macy, NE. Second, expanded version.
Contacts for Further Information (alphabetically)
Ardis Eschenberg, linguistics graduate student (SUNY Buffalo). Has worked extensively in Macy, NE.
Dennis Hastings, RR1 79A, Walthill, NE 68067. Omaha cultural researcher and advocate.
John E. Koontz, linguistics graduate student (U Colo). Has worked on Omaha-Ponca sporadically since 1984 under Taylor & Rood.
Robert L. Rankin, linguist (U Kans). Has worked with all the Dhegiha languages and with other Siouan languages as well. He is the dean of Dhegiha studies.
David Rood, linguist (U Colo). Has worked with Dakotan (Teton). He is the source for access to the computer files in the Siouan Archives, including Dorsey 1890 and 1891.
Catherine Rudin, linguist (Wayne State Coll, NE). Has conducted field work on Omaha.
Kathleen Shea, linguistics graduate student (U Kans). Has worked on Ponca under Rankin.
Mark Swetland, anthropology graduate student (U Okl working at U Neb Lincoln). Has worked extensively on Omaha sociology, history, and lexicography.
All of the materials currently available were prepared by or with members of the Omaha Tribe, and are in pamphlet format with accompanying tapes. They are short illustrated readers with English and Omaha on facing pages. The series editor is John Mangan. Intended mainly for local distribution, they are unpriced. For availability, write: John Mangan, Macy, NE 68039.
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