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Typical Indian Tepee

      Three distinct Indian peoples,--the Pawnee, the Sioux and the Algonquin,--differing in language, customs, and traditions, were found in Nebraska by the earliest white explorers.

      The Pawnees were the dominant Nebraska tribe. They numbered from 10,000 to 20,000 and occupied the fairest and most fertile parts of the state in the valleys of the Platte, the Elkhorn, the Blue and the Republican. They were the most advanced in the arts of any Nebraska Indians. They lived in large permanent villages whose houses were built of sod and poles. Sometimes the village was surrounded with a dirt wall for defense against enemies. Near the villages were fields where the squaws raised corn, beans, pumpkins and melons,--digging the ground with a sharpened stick or a hoe made by fastening the shoulder blade of a buffalo to a pole. Like some of his fashionable imitators today the Pawnee spent only half the year at home. About June first, after the corn and vegetables had been planted and hoed, the entire village departed on its summer buffalo hunt. In September the band came back, gathered and dried its crop of corn and pumpkins and left again in October for the winter hunt which lasted until March. Among the vivid recollections of the writer's own childhood thirty years ago are the Pawnee encampments near the old homestead on the West Blue made by them four times a year while going and coming from their home on the Loup to their hunting ground on the Republican.

     The Pawnee alone of Nebraska Indians made pottery. The art died out like the art of chipping flint, after contact with traders had brought iron and brass implements into use. They tempered their clay with burnt rock and clam shells pounded until reduced to powder, moulded it into shape desired on a framework of braided grass, woven wilow (sic) or the smooth rounded end of a log and burned in kilns excavated in hill-sides. The fragments of tens of thousands of vessels are found everywhere on Pawnee village sites in the state.



      The Pawnees were in almost constant warfare with all of their neighbors. The Sioux, Cheyenne, Crow, Arapahoe, Comanche. Kiowa, Usage tribes--each and all sharpened their knives on a common whetstone of hatred to hunt the Pawnee. Was it because of radical difference of blood and speech or because the more savage, wilder tribes hold a natural animosity toward those who are passing out of the hunting into the agricultural stage? Tribes that have begun to make permanent settlements and cultivate the soil offer more incentive to their wild neighbors in the way of booty ,and are always in danger of extermination until they form communities strong enough to reduce the wild men to submission. So we find the Omahas, Otoes and Poncas--all of them really Sioux Indians as both language
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Pawnee Indian Village on Platte River Near Fremont, Sketch by Simmons, 1856.

and tradition establish--but Sioux who had begun to farm and settle down, living at the time the historical period begins along the Missouri river under the protection of the Pawnees, with the latter nation acting as a buffer state between them and their own wild relatives--the Oglala and Brule Sioux. Besides these little tribes the only people in the trans-Missouri region with whom the Pawnees were on terms of peace and commerce were the Wichitas, of Kansas, and the Aricaras and Mandans of Dakota,--the first two being their own kinsmen speaking dialects of the same language.

     The traditions of the Pawnees as to their origin were two-fold: one declaring that they came from the southeast near the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi--the other that they came from the southwest beyond the

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@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller