The Native American tribes historically settled on the banks of rivers – Loup, Platte and Republican, presently in Nebraska were called Pawnee Indians. The Pawnees (also known as Paneassa, Pari, Pariki) called themselves “Chaticks-si-Chaticks”, which refers “Men of men”.
Until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the Spanish, French and English settlers invaded, not much was known about the Pawnee Indians. However, during the 8th century, historians took interest in documenting the Pawnee’s life.
The historical estimates suggests in the early nineteenth century the Pawnee population was around 20,000-25,000. In the later part of nineteenth century, the population witnessed a steady decline due to the onslaught of epidemics like smallpox and cholera, warfare with traditional enemies and adversities generated while relocating to Oklahoma. However, the tribal membership was rebound gradually and stood at approximately 2500 a few years back.
Divisions of Pawnee Confederacy
The Pawnee Indians includes four discrete bands namely
- The Chaui (Grand)
- The Pitahauerat (Tappage)
- The Skidi (Wolf)
- The Kitkehahki (Republican)
Although each of these bands was autonomous, the Chaui’s were considered as the major band. The Pawnee’s were characteristically similar to several Indian tribes. Normally, the bands acted separately, however, the Spanish, French and American incursions saw the Pawnee Indian tribes stand under one umbrella.
Around 900 AD, the ancestors of the Kitkehahki, Chaui, and Pitahawirata bands – Kawarakis Pawnees settled in the southeastern Nebraska. The Skidi’s have their own dialect, while the Chaui, Kitkehahki and the Pitahawirata speak in the south band dialect.
An overview of Pawnee Indians Society
The Pawnee society was predominantly agrarian. They cultivated maize, beans, pumpkins and squash, which were eaten with fat bacon and pork greased with oil. The animal rearing like buffalo was their secondary occupation after maize cultivation. As the horse culture approached the Great Plains, they began to take interest in the cultural attributes of their cousins.
The Pawnee Indians matrilineal, which implies their ancestral leaning, was from their mothers. The young couples move to the bride’s parents’ lodge. The Pawnee’s men actively participated in the political life. Both the men and women had decision-making rights and shared distinctive responsibilities.
The women were designated under three classes:
- The mature women who performed most of the laborious tasks
- The older women took care of the younger children of the tribe while the other women worked
- The young single women would learn the responsibilities and expectations
They took important decisions about allocation of resource allocation, trade, and inter-lodge social negotiations.
Essentially the Pawnee’s men were held the political designations of:
- The Medicine/Priest Clique
- The Hunting Clique
- The Warrior Clique
Usually the women live in the single lodges. The men normally moved between lodges with multiple sexual partners indulging in serially monogamous relationships
The Pawnee Indians are believed to have practiced a religion, which extolled Gods and nature equally. The sacred bundles were of great value to the members of the tribe. These bundles laid the foundation of many ceremonies. They were alien to Sun Dance cult and participated in ghost dances movement during 1890’s.
The Pawnee’s believed that planting crops according to the position of the stars would fillip the yield of crops. They also offered their major crop maize and other crops to the Gods and may have sacrificed human beings also till the end of mid-eighteenth century.
Pawnee Indians today
The Pawnee Indians have now settled in Oklahoma. The Pawnee nation has been recognized federally as a sovereign American Indian Nation. The supreme governing body of the Pawnee’s nation is the eight-member Pawnee Business Council. The governing body has been allotted both the executive and legislative powers.
The Pawnees now still celebrate their culture and have inter-tribal gatherings twice a year with their kinsmen. There are many Pawnee Indians who retort to their traditional lands to visit the relatives, to cherish the craft shows and participate in powwows.