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North American Indians of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan language family. The Ponca were never a large tribe; an early estimate places their number at 800 individuals. Perhaps because of their small population, they have moved frequently over the past several centuries. Their original locale is thought to have been in what is now the U.S. state of Virginia, from which they moved in turn to the present states of North and South Carolina, western Missouri, and Minnesota. They left Minnesota in the late 17th century owing to incursions by the Dakota Sioux.