NELIGH, Neb. — The relationship between the Ponca Tribe and Neligh spans back hundreds of years, and the Antelope County Museum celebrated their heritage with tribe members dancing at a ceremony.

“They are part of our heritage and they’re back in our history, and I thought, ‘We’re going to honor their history,’” Antelope County Museum Director Donna Hanson said.

That prompted Antelope County Museum Executive Director Donna Hanson to invite Ponca dancers for a ceremony.

Some of that history includes the story of the White Buffalo Girl, a year-and-a-half-old Ponca child who was buried in Neligh during the Trail of Tears in the late 1800s.

“We’ve never forgotten the promise that they gave to us to take care of her grave and always respect her in that way," said Ricky Wright, Director of Cultural Affairs for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. "We always try to give back in any way that we can.”

It was the Neligh residents giving back to the tribe on Wednesday.

A sacred pipe used during ceremonies was given back to the tribe.

According to Hanson, details on the history of the pipe are not known, but the Ponca Tribe has been settled in the area for thousands of years.

“Thankfully here today, they decided to return here to the Ponca people, so very thankful for that," Wright said.

“The whites were kind of hard on the Native Americans back in those days, so I feel that we need to kind of make up for a little bit of it by honoring them and showing what they were really about," Hanson said.

With the Fourth of July this week, Wright says it serves as a reminder for all Americans to celebrate their history.

“I’m just grateful that this kind of worked out at the same time…we could host this event and have a good get-together here," Wright said. "Keep building that relationship with the people here in Neligh and keeping that relationship strong for generations.”

Hanson says she hopes to invite the tribe back annually for an event in the future.