- A powerful confederacy of the Caddoan language family. This group,
like the Iroquois League and the Creek Confederacy, at one time had reached
a high state of governmental organization.
The Pawnee Confederacy consisted of four
tribes: The Chaui or Grand Pawnee, the Kitkehahki or Republican Pawnee,
the Pitahauerat or Tapage Pawnee, and the Skidi or Skiri Pawnee.
The Pawnee had an unusual scalp lock in
which the hair was stiffened with paint and fat and curved back like a
horn. From this they obtained from other tribes the name Pawnee,
or "horn." They called themselves "Men of Men."
The Pawnee formerly inhabited Nebraska
along the Platte River, but at one time raided east of the Mississippi
River. Here they were driven out by the powerful Five Nations, who
sent a force of 1,000 warriors to avenge the raiding by the Pawnee of an
A Pawnee, El Turco (The Turk), acted as
a guide to Coronado's army and led it on a wild goose chase through Kansas.
The Pawnee never fought the whites and many times sided with them against
hostile Indians. The Pawnee Scouts, under Major Frank North, became
famous during the Indian was between 1865 and 1885.
In battle Pawnee warriors fought with as
few clothes as possible. They usually stripped down to the breechcloth,
not wishing any piece of cloth or skin to be carried into a wound by an
arrow or bullet. Even when a scout for the U. S. Army, the Pawnee
warrior would cast off his uniform when he started fighting.
The tribal unit of the Pawnee was the village
and the chief of each village was a member of the tribal council.
The council in turn was represented in the Pawnee Confederacy.
The Pawnee were considered mystery men
by members of other tribes because of their strange rituals and ceremonies.
They worshiped the Morning Star and the Evening Star, and professed to
be experts on all stars. By the stars they were able to determine
the proper time for planting corn. The wind, thunder, and lightning
they thought of as messengers of the heavenly bodies.
One group of Pawnee each year killed a
virgin as a human sacrifice to the Morning Star, until this practice was
stopped by a great reformer, Chief Petalesharo.
As a strange kind of reward for their friendliness
to the whites, the Pawnee were forced to leave their country and move to
a reservation. When Petalesharo II, their chief, protested, he was
killed by one of his own men.
Though they numbered more than 10,000 about
a century ago, today this mighty tribe has dwindled to around 2,000.
They live in Oklahoma, where a city has been named for them. They
have also given their name to counties in Oklahoma, Kansas, and nebraska;
streams in Colorado and Kansas; places in Colorado, Indiana, and Illinois;
to Pawnee City in Nebraska; Pawnee Rock and Pawnee Station, both in Kansas;
and Pawnee Buttes in northeastern Colorado.
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