“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly… We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way, the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two. “~Eagle Chief (Letakos-Lesa) – Pawnee~
Pawnee history can be traced over seven hundred years, when they lived along the North Platt River in Nebraska, when there were over 10,000 members…The Tribe then, as it is now, was composed of four distinct bands: the Chaui “Grand”; the Kitkehahki, “Republican”; the Pitahawirata, “Tappage”; and Skidi, “Wolf”. Each band went on separate hunts and often fought separate battles.
The Pawnee villages consisted of dome-shaped, earth-covered lodges with a diameter of 25 to 60 feet with a long entrance leading towards the East. A center pit dug three to four feet in diameter served as a fireplace. These lodges housed extended families. Pawnees dressed similar to other plains tribes; however, the Pawnees had a special way of preparing the scalp lock by dressing it with buffalo fat until it stood erect and curved backward like a horn.
The Pawnees were well known for their ability to raid neighboring tribes and acquire their horses. They set out on foot and brought back hundreds of horses, especially from the tribes to the South and Southwest. Horses gave the Pawnees the mobility that made them a name to be feared by their enemies…Pawnee warriors were men of courage and great endurance. Even when outnumbered and outgunned, they fought valiantly. Some of these warrior feats were considered legendary.
Although the Pawnees never waged open war against the U.S. Government and were classified as a “friendly tribe”, extra privileges were not gained. The government felt the need to placate warring tribes with gifts, which sometimes consisted of rifles to hunt buffalo. These rifles were in turn used against other tribes, including the Pawnees, who were not so fortunately armed.
Before the middle of the 19th century, the Tribe was stricken with smallpox and cholera. A great loss of life occurred and by 1900, the tribe”s membership was decreased to approximately 600.
The Pawnees unwillingly ceded their lands to the U.S. Government in 1833, 1848, 1857 and 1872. The move from Nebraska to what is now Pawnee County was completed in 1875.
The Pawnee Indian Agency was established just east of the present site of the City of Pawnee and an Indian boarding school, called Pawnee Industrial School, was built. The school affectionately known as “Gravy U” was closed in 1958 and the land was returned to the tribe in 1968.
Tribalpedia’s Questions for Comprehension and Discussion
1. In what area of the United States did the Pawnee first live?
2. During that time, how many members were there?
3. The Pawnee wore clothing similar to the other plains tribes with the exception of one difference. What was this difference?
4. The Pawnee raided other tribes and took which animals?
5. The U.S. Government saw the Pawnee as what type of tribe?
6. Ancestral descent is traced through which parent?
Today, many of the old “Gravy U” buildings have been renovated and are now used as tribal offices and are the home to the Pawnee Nation College, established in 2006.
The tribal enrollment is a little over 2,500 members and Pawnees can be found in all areas of the United States… Pawnees take much pride in their ancestral heritage. They are noted in history for their tribal religion, rich in myth, symbolism and elaborate rites.
Tribal Board members
The Pawnee Business Council is the supreme governing body of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma… The Executive Office works closely with the Pawnee Business Council (PBC) in providing support in developing strategic direction…The Pawnee are a matrilineal people. Ancestral descent is traced through the mother, and, traditionally, a young couple moved into the bride’s parents’ lodge. People work together in collaborative ways, marked by both independence and cooperation, without coercion. Both women and men are active in political life, with independent decision-making responsibilities.
Acee Blue Eagle- artist and educator
John EchoHawk, lawyer and founder of the Native American Rights Fund
Kevin Gover, director of the National Museum of the American Indian.
A Pawnee Legend
Tirawa Atius is the lord of all things and it is he alone who determines fate. At the beginning of the world, he set a large bull buffalo in the sky to the far northwest. With the passage of each year, the bull loses one hair; when all these hairs are gone, the world will end. As that hair falls, there will be widespread meteor showers, and the sun and moon will become dim.
In the beginning, Tirawa Atius appointed the North Star and the South Star to control fate. The North Star once spoke directly to the Pawnee and told them that the South Star moved just a little bit to the north with each passing year. When the South Star catches up with the North Star, then the world will end.
The command for the final destruction of the world is in the hands of the four gods of the directions. The West will issue the command that the world be destroyed and the East will obey. Then the stars in heaven will fall to the new earth and become people. The people left in this world at the time of destruction will fly high into the sky and become stars themselves.