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The Pawnee (also Paneassa, Pari, Pariki) are a Caddoan-language Native American tribe that historically lived along the Platte, Loup and Republican Riversmarker in present-day Nebraskamarker and in Northern Kansasmarker. Their autonym is Chaticks-si-Chaticks, meaning "Men of men".

In the 18th century, they were allied with the French, with whom they traded. They played an important role in halting Spanish expansion onto the Great Plainsmarker by defeating the Villasur expedition decisively in battle in 1720.

In the 19th century, epidemics of smallpox and cholera and endemic warfare with the Sioux and Cheyenne wiped out most of the Pawnee, reducing the population to approximately 600 by the year 1900. Since then the tribe has begun to recover. As of 2005, there are approximately 5,500 Pawnee.

Traditional culture

  • Chaui (Grand)
  • Kitkehahki (Republican)
  • Pitahauerat (Tappage)
  • Skidi (Wolf)


The Chaui are generally recognized as being the leading band, although each band was autonomous. As was typical of many Indian tribes, each band saw to its own, although with outside pressures from the Spanishmarker, Frenchmarker and Americansmarker, as well as neighboring tribes, the Pawnee began to draw closer together.

Lodges

The Pawnee lodges tended to be oval in shape; the frame was constructed of 10-15 posts set some ten feet apart which outlined the floor of the lodge. Lodge size varied based on the number of poles placed in the center of the structure. Most lodges had 4, 8 or 12 center poles. A common feature in Pawnee lodges were four painted poles, which represented the four cardinal directions and the four major star gods (not to be confused with the Creator.) The framework was covered with willow branches, earth and sod, which inhibited erosion. A hole left in the center which served as a combined chimney and skylight. The lodge was semi-subterranean, with the floor dug approximately three feet below ground level. A buffalo-skin door on a hinge could be closed at night and wedged shut.

There could be as many as 30-50 people living in each lodge. A village could consist of as many as 300-500 people and 10-15 households. Each lodge was divided in two (north and south), and each section had a head who oversaw the daily business; each section was further subdivided into three families. The membership of the lodge was quite flexible. The tribe went on buffalo hunts in summer and winter. Upon their return, the inhabitants of the lodges would often move into another lodge, although they generally remained within the village.

Political structure

The Pawnee are a matrilineal people; ancestral descent was through the mother and a young couple would traditionally move into the bride's parents' lodge. Both women and men are active in political life, with both taking decision-making responsibilities.

Within the lodge the abovementioned sections were designated for the three classes of women.
  • Mature women who did most of the labor
  • Young single women just learning their responsibilities
  • Older women who looked after the young children


Amongst the collection of lodges, the political designations for men were essentially between:
  • the Warrior Clique
  • the Hunting Clique


Women tended to be responsible for decisions about resource allocation, trade, and inter-lodge social negotiations. Men were responsible for decisions which pertained to hunting, war, and spiritual/health issues.

Women tended to remain within a single lodge, while men would typically move between lodges taking multiple sexual partners in serially-monogamous relationships.

Hunting

After they obtained horses, the Pawnee left their villages and traveled in both summer and winter westward to the Great Plainsmarker where they hunted buffalo. They often traveled 500 miles or more. In summer the march began at dawn or before, but usually did not last the entire day. If it did, the people were exhausted and cross. Most of the meat obtained was sliced into strips and dried on poles over slow fires and stored; so prepared, it was usable for several years. Although buffalo was preferred, other game including elk, bear, panther, and skunk was hunted for their skins and meat. They returned to their villages to harvest their crops when the corn was ripe or in the spring when the grass became green. Summer hunts extended from late June to about the first of September; but might end early if hunting was successful; sometimes the hunt was limited to what is now western Nebraska. Winter hunts were from late October until early April and were often to the southwest into what is now western Kansas. Once buffalo were located hunting did not begin until the medicine men of the tribe considered the time propitious. Then the hunt began by advancing in a body on the buffalo, but killing of any buffalo was not permitted until the soldiers of the tribe gave the signal. Anyone who broke ranks was severely beaten. The hunters guided their ponies with their knees and wielded bows and arrows. Buffalo were incapacitated with a single arrow shot into their flank between the lower ribs and the hip. This distressed the buffalo greatly, much more than a gunshot would and the animal would soon lie down and perhaps bleed out. An individual hunter might shoot as many as five buffalo in the way before backtracking and finishing them off. Cows and young bulls were preferred as older bulls have a disagreeable taste.

Further reading



Religion

The Pawnee placed great significance on Sacred Bundles, which formed the basis of many religious ceremonies maintaining the balance of nature and the relationship with the gods and spirits. The Pawnee were not part of the Sun Dance tradition, although they did partake in the Ghost Dance movement of the 1890s.

Pawnee equated the stars with the gods and planted their crops according to the position of the stars. Like many tribal units they sacrificed maize and other crops.

The Morning Star ritual

The Skidi practiced child sacrifice (the "Morning Star ritual") regularly until the 1810s. Tribal leaders understood that the practice was abhorrent to Americans and made heroic efforts to suppress it. The last sacrifice was of Haxti, a 14-year-old Oglala girl on April 22, 1838. Typically, a young girl was captured from another tribe, based on a dream by a Skidi elder. The girl was well treated for several days, and an elaborate scaffold was built for the sacrifice. The preparations took four days.

When the morning star was due to rise, the girl was placed on the scaffold, and at the moment the star appeared above the horizon, the girl's chest was cut open, after which her body was shot with arrows.

In her The Lost Universe (1965), Gene Weltfish makes note of a young Lakota captive who was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. She was thought to be the last human sacrifice performed by the Pawnee; Weltfish attributes this peculiarity to their Aztec kin to the south. However, this posited connection to Aztec sacrifice has been disputed [9839]

History

Tribal territory of the Pawnee and tribes in Nebraska
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado visited the neighboring Wichita in 1541 where he encountered a Pawnee chief from Harahey in Nebraskamarker. Nothing much is mentioned of the Pawnee until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when successive incursions of Spanishmarker, Frenchmarker and Englishmarker settlers attempted to enlarge their possessions. The tribes however tended to make alliances as and when it suited them. An interesting point to note being that different Pawnee subtribes could make treaties with warring European powers without disrupting the underlying unity; the Pawnee were masters at unity within diversity.

Historian Marcel Trudel documented that close to 2,000 Pawnee (Panis in French) slaves lived in Canadamarker until the abolition of slavery in the colony in 1833. The Indian slaves comprised close to half of the known slaves in French Canada (also called Lower Canada). Native American and First Nations tribes sold slaves captured in warfare to other tribes and to European traders. In French Canada, Indian slaves were generally called Panis (anglicized to Pawnee) and most seemed to come from the Pawnee tribe. As early as 1670 there was a historical reference to a Panis in Montreal.

A tribal delegation visited President Jefferson. In 1806 Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, Major G. C. Sibley, Major S. H. Long, amongst others, began visiting the Pawnee villages. The Pawnee ceded territory to the United States government in treaties in 1818, 1825, 1833, 1848, 1857, and 1892; in 1857, they settled on the Pawnee Reservation along the Loup River in present-day Nance County, Nebraskamarker. Continual raids from Lakota from the north and west, and encroachment from American settlers to the south and east lead to the abandonment of their Nebraska reservation. In 1875 they moved to Indian Territory, (Oklahomamarker), a large territory that had served as a receiving place for tribes displaced from the east and elsewhere. Many Pawnee men joined the United States Cavalry as scouts rather than face the ignominy of reservation life and the inevitable loss of their freedom and culture. In the 20th century, Christianity supplanted the older religion.

In 1780 the Pawnee are thought to have numbered around 10,000. Through the 19th century, epidemics of smallpox and cholera killed most of the Pawnee, reducing the population to approximately 600 by the year 1900. As of 2005, there are approximately 5,500 Pawnee.

Recent history

Pawnee father and son, 1912
The Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 established the Pawnee Business Council, the Nasharo Council, and a tribal constitution, bylaws, and charter. An out-of-court settlement in 1964 awarded the Pawnee Nation $7,316,096.55 for land ceded to the US and undervalued by the federal government in the previous century.

Bills such as the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 have gone some way to address the mistakes of the past and help the Pawnee Nation regain some of their self-government, culture and pride. The Pawnee continue to practice cultural traditions, meeting twice a year for the inter-tribal gathering with their kinsmen the Wichita Indians, and the annual four-day Pawnee Homecoming for Pawnee veterans in July. Many Pawnee return to their traditional lands to visit relatives and to take part in powwows.

In popular culture

  • In Kevin Costner's movie "Dances with Wolves," the Pawnee are the main Indian antagonists to the Lakota/Sioux Indians befriended by the main character. In the words of one reviewer, the Pawnee "are identified as a blood seeking race . . ." [9840].
  • In Arthur Penn's 1970 film, "Little Big Man", the Pawnee play the antagonists to the Dustin Hoffman's character, Little Big Man, as it was they who not only killed his family in the beginning of the film but also side with (serving as scouts) George Custer's 7th Cavalry; later in the film, they murder his Indian family on the Washita River.


  • In the novel Centennial and the later television miniseries of the same name, the Pawnee are depicted as the enemies of the Arapaho. In one memorable scene, the Arapaho lead a raid on the village of Chief Rude Water to rescue an Arapaho girl kidnapped for the Morning Star ritual.


Pawnee of note

Larry EchoHawk, U.S. President Barack Obama nominee to head the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs is Pawnee. He was elected Attorney General of Idahomarker in 1991, for a term to 1995, the first Native American elected to a constitutional statewide office in the US.

See also



References

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