Pawnee Indians

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Pawnee Indians. The name is derived by some from the native word pariki, “a horn,” a term said to be used to designate their peculiar manner of dressing the scalp lock; but Lesser and Weltfish (1932) consider it more likely that it is from parisu, “hunter,” as claimed by themselves. They were also called Padani and Panana by various tribes. Also known as:

  • Ahihinin, Arapaho name, meaning “wolf people.”
  • Awahi, Caddo and Wichita Dame.
  • Awahu, Arikara name.
  • Awó, Tonkawa name, originally used by the Wichita.
  • Chahiksichahiks, meaning “men of men,” applied to themselves but also to all other tribes whom they considered civilized.
  • Dárāzhazh, Kiowa Apache name.
  • Harahey, Coronado documents (somewhat uncertain).
  • Ho-ni’-i-tañi-o, Cheyenne name, meaning “little wolf people.”
  • Kuitare-i, Comanche name, meaning “wolf people.”
  • Paoneneheo, early Cheyenne name, meaning “the ones with projecting front teeth.”
  • Páyin, Kansa form of the name.
  • Pi-ta’-da, name given to southern tribes (Grinnell, 1923).
  • Tse-sa do hpa ka, Hidatsa name meaning “wolf people.”
  • Wóhesh, Wichita name.
  • Xaratenumanke, Mandan name.

Pawnee Connections. The Pawnee were one of the principal tribes of the Caddoan linguistic stock. The Arikara were an offshoot, and the Wichita were more closely related to them than were the Caddo.

Pawnee Location.-On the middle course of Platte River and the Republican fork of Kansas River. (See also Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.)

Pawnee Subdivisions. The Pawnee consisted in reality of four tribes, or four known in historic times, viz: The Chaui or Grand Pawnee, the Kitkehahki or Republican Pawnee, the Pitahauerat or Tapage Pawnee, and the Skidi or Skiri Pawnee, the first three speaking the same dialect and being otherwise more closely connected with one another than with the last. The Kitkehahki embraced two divisions, the Kitkehahki proper and the Little Kitkehahki. Murie gives two others, the Black Heads and Karikisu, but Lesser and Weltfish (1932) state that the first was a society and the second the name of the women’s dance or ceremony before corn planting. The Pitahauerat consisted of the Pitahauerat proper and the Kawarakis, some times said to be villages.

Pawnee History. Some of the Pawnee trace their origin to the southwest, some to the east, and some claim always to have lived in the country with which later history associates them. The first White men to meet any members of these tribes were the Spaniards under Coronado in 1541. French explorers heard of them again early in the eighteenth century and French traders were established among them before the middle of it. The Spaniards of New Mexico became acquainted with them at about the same time on account of the raids which they conducted in search of horses. They lay somewhat out of the track of the first explorers from the east, and in consequence suffered less diminution in numbers through White influences than did many of their neighbors, but they were considerably reduced through wars with the surrounding tribes, particularly with the Dakota. Although some of the early traders and trappers were treated harshly by them, their relations with the United States Government were friendly from the first, and they uniformly furnished scouts for the frontier armies. By treaties negotiated in 1833, 1848, and 1857, they ceded all of their lands in Nebraska except one reservation and in 1876 this tract was also surrendered and the entire tribe given new lands in Oklahoma, where they still live. The land has been allotted to them in severalty and they are now citizens of the United States.

Population. Mooney (1928) estimates 10,000 Pawnee in 1780. In 1702 Iberville estimated 2,000 families. In 1838 they numbered about 10,000 according to an estimate of Dunbar and Allis (1880-82), and one authority places the figure as high as 12,500. In 1849, after the cholera epidemic, they were reported at 4,500; in 1856, 4,686 were returned, but in 1861, only 3,416. In 1879, after suffering severely in consequence of the removal to Indian Territory, they had dropped to 1,440, and by 1906 they had fallen to 649. The census of 1910 returned 633, but according to the Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923, they had then increased to 773. The census of 1930 gave 730. In 1937, 959 were reported.

Connection in which they have become noted.-The Pawnee tribe is distinguished:

  1. For its peculiar language and culture.
  2. Because of its numbers and warlike prowess, its constant hostility to the Dakota, and consistent assistance to the American forces operating upon the Plains.
  3. As having given its name to a city in Oklahoma; to counties in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; to streams in Colorado and Kansas; and to places in Morgan County, Colorado; Sangamon County, Illinois; Montgomery County, Indiana; Pawnee City in Pawnee County, Nebraska; Pawnee Rock in Barton County, Kansas; Pawnee Station in Bourbon County, Kansas; and a creek and buttes in northeastern Colorado.

See Further: Pawnee Tribe



MLA Source Citation:

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 20 November 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/pawnee-indians.htm - Last updated on Jun 17th, 2012


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