- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska has signed an agreement in Lincoln to assume ownership of a segment of the Homestead Trail.

Tribal leaders signed an agreement during a Sunday ceremony to accept 19 1/2 miles of trail stretching from Beatrice to the Kansas border in southeastern portion of Nebraska. The agreement is with the Nebraska Trails Foundation and the Homestead Conservation and Trail Association.

Part of the trail segment traces the route used by the tribe and Chief Standing Bear when the tribe was forced to relocate from Nebraska to Oklahoma in 1877. Plans call for plaques or kiosks with information about the relocation, which the Ponca refer to as their “Trail of Tears.”

Nine members died on the journey, and within a year of the tribe’s arrival in Oklahoma, about one-third of the people died mostly from disease.

Tribal Chairman Larry Wright Jr. said he recently walked a part of the trail with others and thought about the suffering and heartache his ancestors had endured nearly 140 years ago.

“That was a very dark time for us, a very sad time, trying to get us out of our homeland,” he said. “But here we are, back in Nebraska. We celebrate that.”

Wright thanked the foundation for its donation of the trail segment, which will be known as the Chief Standing Bear Trail. The Homestead Conservation, which supports a network of trails in Gage County, will maintain the trail portion with $150,000 from the foundation.

“Our hope when people use this trail is that they will take time to reflect on the tragic history that is tied to it but also think of the beauty that the trail provides in its updated state,” Wright said.

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