Houses of the Pawnee Tribe

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Soon after the transfer of Louisiana to the United States Government several expeditions were sent out to explore the newly acquired domains and to discover the native tribes who claimed and occupied parts of the vast territory. Of these parties, that led by Capts. Lewis and Clark was the most important, but of great interest was the second expedition under command of Lieut. Z. M. Pike, which traversed the country extending from the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, and reached the Pawnee villages near the North Platte during the month of September, 1806. How long the Pawnee had occupied that region may never be determined, but they had evidently migrated from the southwest, probably moving slowly, making long stops on the way. As a tribe they were known to the Spaniards as early as the first half of the sixteenth century, and appear to have been among the first of the plains tribes to be visited by French and Spanish traders.

Unfortunately Pike did not prepare a very extensive account of the Pawnee as they appeared during the autumn of 1806, but wrote in part: “Their houses are a perfect circle, (except where the door enters) from whence there is a projection of about 15 feet; the whole being constructed after the following manner, Viz: 1st. there is an excavation of a circular form, made in the ground, of about 4 feet deep and 60 diameter, where they is a row of posts about 5 feet high, with crotches at the top, set firmly in all round, and horizontal poles from one to the other. There is then a row of posts, forming a circle of about 10 feet width in the diameter of the others, and 10 feet in height; the crotches of those are so directed, that horizontal poles are also laid from one to the other; long poles are then laid slanting, perpendicularly from the lower poles over the upper, and meeting nearly at the top, leaving only a small aperture for the smoke of the fire to pass out, which is made on the ground in the middle of the lodge. There is then a number of small poles put up round the circle, so as to form the wall, and wicker work run through the whole. The roof is then thatched with grass, and earth thrown up against the wall until a bank is made to the eves of the thatch; and that is also covered with earth one or two feet thick, and rendered so tight, as entirely to exclude any storm whatsoever, and make them extremely warm. The entrance is about 6 feet wide, with walls on each side, and roofed like our houses in shape, but of the same materials as the main building. Inside there are numerous little apartments constructed of wicker work against the wall with small doors; they have a great appearance of neatness and in them the members of the family sleep and have their little deposits. Their towns are by no means so much crowded as the Osage, giving much more space, but they have the same mode of introducing all their horses into the village at night, which makes it extremely crowded. They keep guards with the horses during the day. They are extremely addicted to gaming, and have for that purpose a smooth piece of ground cleared out on each side of the village for about 150 yards in length.”1

Although Pike’s account of this interesting tribe is very brief and unsatisfactory, it was soon to be followed by a more complete and comprehensive description. This refers to the notes prepared by members of the Long expedition, 14 years later.

Long’s Expedition Amongst the Pawnee

The expedition under command of Maj. Stephen H. Long arrived at Council Bluff, “so called by Lewis and Clark, from a council with the Otoe and Missouri held there, on the 3rd of August, 1804,” during the early autumn of 1819. Winter quarters were established at a point about 5 miles lower down the Missouri and at a short distance north of the present city of Omaha, Nebr. This was called Engineer Cantonment, and during the ensuing months many Indians visited the encampment to treat with Maj. O’Fallon, the commissioner.

Leaving the majority of the party in quarters at the cantonment, Maj. Long and others of the expedition, on October 11, “began to descend the Missouri in a canoe, on their way towards Washington and Philadelphia.” Returning from the east they reached Engineer Cantonment May 28, 1820, having arrived at St. Louis April 24, “from Philadelphia to Council Bluff, to rejoin the party.”

During the absence of the commanding officers some members of the expedition made a short trip to the Pawnee villages, and the following brief account appears in the narrative on May 1, 1820: “At each of the villages, we observed small sticks of the length of eighteen inches or two feet, painted red, stuck in the earth in various situations, but chiefly on the roofs of the houses, each bearing the fragment of a human scalp, the hair of which streamed in the wind. Before the entrance to some of the lodges were small frames, like painter’s easels, supporting each a shield, and generally a large painted cylindrical case of skin, prepared like parchment, in which a war dress is deposited. The shield is circular, made of bison skin. and thick enough to ward off an arrow, but not to arrest the flight of a rifle ball at close quarters. The lodges, or houses. of these three villages, are similar in structure, but differ in size. The description of those of the Konzas will apply to them, excepting that the beds are all concealed by a mat partition. which extends parallel to the walls of the lodge, and from the floor to the roof. Small apertures, or doors, at intervals in this partition, are left for the different families, that inhabit a lodge, to enter their respective bed chambers.”2

After the return of Maj. Long the reunited party left Engineer Cantonment, June 6. 1820, and soon reached the Pawnee villages, situated about 100 miles westward, on the Loup River, a branch of the Platte. The narrative of this part of the journey is most interesting: “The path leading to the Pawnee villages runs in a direction a little south of west from the cantonment, and lies across a tract of high and barren prairie for the first ten miles. At this distance it crosses the Papillon, or Butterfly creek, a small stream discharging into the Missouri, three miles above the confluence of the Platte.”

After advancing for several days over the prairie, on June 10, “at sunset we arrived at a small creek, eleven miles distant from the village of the Grand Pawnee, where we encamped. On the following morning, having arranged the party according to rank, and given the necessary instructions for the preservation of order, we proceeded forward and in a short time came in sight of the first of the Pawnee villages. The trace on which we had traveled since we left the Missouri, had the appearance of being more and more frequented as we approached the Pawnee towns; and here, instead of a single footway, it consisted of more than twenty parallel paths, of similar size and appearance. After a ride of about three hours, we arrived before, the village, and dispatched a messenger to inform the chief of our approach. Answer was returned that he was engaged with his chiefs and warriors at a medicine feast, and could not, therefore, come out to meet us. The party which accompanied Major Long, after groping about some time, and traversing a considerable part of the village, arrived at the lodge of the principal chief. Here we were again informed that Tarrarecawaho, with all the principal men of the village, were engaged at a medicine feast.

“Notwithstanding his absence, some mats were spread for us upon the ground, in the back part of the lodge. Upon these we sat down, and after waiting some time, were presented with a large wooden dish of hominy, or boiled maize, In this was a single spoon of the horn of a bison, large enough to hold half a pint, which, being used alternately by each of the party, soon emptied the dish of its contents.”

Spoon, marked "buffalo horn spoon, presented by Gen. T. Duncan." Length about 10 inches. (U.S.N.M. 12259)
Plate 42a – Spoon, marked “buffalo horn spoon, presented by Gen. T. Duncan.” Length about 10 inches. (U.S.N.M. 12259)

An excellent example of an old spoon similar to the one mentioned in the preceding paragraph is shown in plate 42a. It is about 10 inches in length and much worn from long use. Unfortunately it is not known when or where it was collected, but without doubt it came from the Upper Missouri Valley.

Continuing the narrative: “The interior of this capacious dwelling was dimly lighted from a hole at the top, through which the sun’s rays, in a defined column, fell upon the earthen floor. Immediately under this hole, which is both window and chimney, is a small depression in the centre of the floor, where the fire is made; but the upper parts of the lodge are constantly filled with smoke: adding much to the air of gloominess and obscurity, which prevail within. The furniture of Long-hair’s lodge consisted of mats, ingeniously woven of grass or rushes, bison robes, wooden dishes, and one or two small brass kettles. In the part of the lodge immediately opposite the entrance, we observed a rude niche in the wall, which was occupied by a bison skull. It appeared to have been exposed to the weather, until the flesh and periosteum had decayed, and the bones had become white.

Our visit to thus village seemed to excite no great degree of attention. Among the crowd, who surrounded us before we entered the village, we observed several young squaws rather gaily dressed, being wrapped in clean and new blankets, and having their heads ornamented with wreaths of gnaphalium and the silvery leaves of the prosalea canescens. On the tops of the lodges we also saw some display of finery, which we supposed to have been made on account of our visit. Flags were hoisted, shields, and bows, and quivers, were suspended in conspicuous places, scalps were hung out; in short, the people appeared to have exposed whatever they possessed, in the exhibition of which, they could find any gratification of the vanity. Aside from this, we received no distinguished marks of attention from the Grand Pawnee.”3

The camp of the expedition was a little more than a mile from the village of the Grand Pawnee, and the intervening prairie must have presented an animated sight, being “covered with great numbers of horses, intermixed with men, women, and children.” Nearer the village were groups of squaws “busily engaged in dressing the skins of the bison for robes.” During the afternoon many Indians arrived at the camp, men wishing to trade horses, the women endeavoring to trade various articles. And on the following morning, June 11, 1820, many groups of women were seen leaving the village, accompanied by their dogs, bound for their fields of corn situated a few miles away.

The expedition next arrived at the village of the Republican Pawnee, 4 miles from that of the Grand Pawnee. Both villages stood on the immediate bank of the stream. Remaining there but a short time, they continued on to the Loup village. Here they encamped during the night of June 12, leaving early on the following morning. On the morning of the 13th many squaws were again observed making their way to the cornfields, with their small children. Some stopped to admire the “novel appearance” of the members of the expedition, many brought various vegetables, jerked buffalo meat and tallow to exchange for whatever they could obtain.
“The three Pawnee villages, with their pasture grounds, and insignificant enclosures, occupy about ten miles in length of the fertile valley of the Wolf river. The surface is wholly naked of timber, rising gradually to the river hills, which are broad and low, and from a mile to a mile and a half distant.”4

Pawnee village which stood in the Loupe Fork of the Platte River. Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871
Plate 49 – Pawnee village which stood in the Loupe Fork of the Platte River. Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871

During the latter part of the summer of 1833 the small party under the leadership of Commissioner Henry L. Ellsworth reached the Pawnee towns, and in the narrative of the expedition are to be found many references to the customs of the people whose habitations were the primitive earth-covered lodges. The second morning after arriving at the village of the Grand Pawnee several members of the party walked about among the lodges, and at that time, so wrote Irving: “The warriors were collected in small knots of five or six, and by their vehement gestures, were apparently engaged in earnest conversation. The children were rolling and tumbling in the dirt; the squaws were busily engaged. Some were bringing from their lodges large leather sacks of shelled corn; others were spreading it out to dry, upon the leather of their buffalo-skin tents, which had been stretched out upon the ground. Others were cleansing from it the decayed kernels and packing it up in small sacks of whitish undressed leather, resembling parchment. These were then deposited in cache-holes for a winter’s store.

“At a distance from the village, a band of females were slowly wending along the top of the low prairie ridges, to their daily labor in the small plantations of corn. These are scattered in every direction round the village, wherever a spot of rich, black soil, gives promise of a bountiful harvest. Some of them are as much as eight miles distant from the town.”5

Later the same day a council was held at the lodge of the chief, attended by the principal men of the village, and it is interesting to read the description of the gathering of those who were to participate: “The lodge had been swept clean; a large cheery fire was crackling in the centre. The rabble crowd of loungers and hangersan had been routed; and besides the family of the chief, we were the only occupants of the spacious building.

“At mid-day the chiefs and braves began to assemble. They were full dressed; many of the young warriors had spent the whole morning in preparation, and now presented themselves, fully ornamented for the meeting.

“As the hour for the opening of the council grew nearer, the tall, muffled warriors poured in, in one continuous stream. They moved quietly to the places allotted them, and seating themselves in silence round the chief, according to their rank. The crowd continued flowing in until the lodge was filled almost to suffocation. As they came in, they seated themselves, until five or six circles were formed, one beyond the other, the last ranging against the wall of the building. In the ring nearest the chiefs, sat the principal braves, or those warriors whose deeds of blood entitled them to a high rank in the councils of the nation. The more distant circles were filled by such young men of the village as were admitted to its councils. The passage leading to the open air, was completely blocked up with a tight wedged mass of women and children, who dared venture no nearer to the deliberations of the tribe.”  When all had gathered the chief filled a large stone pipe, took a few puffs, then handed it to the members of the commissioner’s party, who in turn passed it to the other Indians. The addresses were then made and the council deliberated on the several questions presented.

The expedition moved on from the Grand Pawnee to the village of the Republican Pawnee, which stood on the bank of the Loup Fork of the Platte, some 20 miles distant from the former, with the rolling prairie between. Approaching the river they could see, on the far side, “a high bluff, on which was situated the dingy lodges, of the Republican village.” They were welcomed by the people of the village, and soon reached the lodge of the principal chief, Blue Coat, which they entered. Then “it was not long before the lodge became crowded. The old warriors, moved with a hushed step, across the building, and listened, to our conversation.” Soon an invitation was received to attend a feast at the lodge of the second chief. Entering that lodge, he was seen seated upon “a small leather mat. Around him were lounging about a dozen Indians. Some, reclining with their backs against the pillars supporting the roof, with their eyes half closed, were smoking their stone pipes. Some were lying half asleep upon the clay floor, with their feet within a few inches of the fire; and others were keeping up a sleepy song.

“At a short distance from the fire, half a dozen squaws were pounding corn, in large mortars, and chattering vociferously at the same time. In the farther part of the building, about a dozen naked children, with faces almost hid by their bushy, tangled hair, were rolling and wrestling upon the floor, occasionally causing the lodge to echo to their childish glee. In the back ground, we could perceive some half dozen shaggy, thievish-looking wolf dogs, skulking among the hides and bundles, in search of food, and gliding about with the air of dogs, who knew that they had no business there.”  Such was a domestic scene within a Pawnee lodge.

A very clear and concise description of the interior arrangement and fittings of an earth lodge, one standing in the village of the Grand Pawnee during the autumn of 1835, has been preserved in Dunbar’s journal. On October 22, after referring to the construction of the lodge itself, he wrote: ” Within these buildings the earth is beat down hard, and forms the floor. In the center a circular place is dug about 8 inches deep, and 3 feet in diameter. This is the fireplace. The earth that is taken from this place is spatted down around it, and forms the hearth. Near the fireplace a stake is firmly fixed in the earth in an inclined position, and serves all the purposes of a crane. Mats made of rushes are spread down round the fire on which they sit. Back next the walls are the sleeping apartments. A frame work is raised about two feet from the floor, on this are placed small rods, interwoven with slips of elm bark. On these rods a rush mat is spread. At proper distances partitions are set up, composed of small willow rods interwoven with slips of bark. In front of these apartments, either a partition of willow rods is erected, or rush mats are hung up as curtains. But this is not always the case. In some lodges the simple platform alone is to be seen, without either partitions, or curtains. In others there is not even the platform, and the inmates sleep on the ground.

“In these lodges several families frequently live together. I believe there are as many as three different families in the lodge where I stop. Each family has its particular portion of the dwelling, and the furniture of each is kept separate.”6 Comparing the two preceding accounts it is easy to visualize the interior of Pawnee earth lodges as they were nearly a century ago.

The preceding references to the women of the villages going early in the morning to their fields of corn recall a note in Fremont’s journal a few years later. He wrote when returning from the mountains, on September 22, 1842, “We arrived at the village of the Grand Pawnees, on the right bank of the river [the Platte] about thirty miles above the mouth of the Loup fork. They were gathering in their corn, and we obtained from them a very welcome supply of vegetables.”7

Earth Covered Lodges of the Pawnee Tribe

Lodges in the Pawnee village which stood on the Loupe Fork of the Platte River. Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871
Plate 50 – Lodges in the Pawnee village which stood on the Loupe Fork of the Platte River. Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871

The villages described in the accounts already quoted were the permanent settlements of the tribe, groups of earth-covered lodges quite similar to those erected by other tribes in the Upper Missouri Valley. Fortunately several remarkable photographs of the villages and of the separate structures are in existence, having been made by W. H. Jackson in 1871. The most valuable of the early pictures is reproduced as plate 49. And here it may be remarked that this is a different photograph from the one which was presented as plate 12 in Bulletin 69 of this bureau’s publications, and although both were made at the same time, nevertheless they differ in minor details. It is therefore of interest to know two negatives were made at that time. This was the village of the Republican Pawnee. In plate 50 are two of the large earth-covered lodges, showing the tunnel-like entrances, and with many persons sitting on the tops of the structures. The entrance is more clearly shown in plate 51, where a brush mat protects the side. This may be part of a small enclosure.

In addition to the permanent earth-covered lodges the Pawnee made extensive use of temporary skin-covered shelters, unlike the conical lodge of the plains tribes. These served as their habitations during the hunting season, when away from their villages. A most valuable and interesting description of the ways and customs of the Pawnee while occupying their movable villages was prepared by one who, during the summer and autumn of 1835, lived among the people, sharing their primitive ways of life and thereby learning many of their peculiar traits. The English traveler, Charles A. Murray, whose narrative is quoted in part on the following pages, left Fort Leavenworth July 7, 1835, and two weeks later reached the summer camp of the Pawnee: “and a more interesting or picturesque scene I never beheld. Upon an extensive prairie gently sloping down to a creek, the winding course of which marked a broken line of wood here and there interspersed with a fine clump of trees, were about five thousand savages, inclusive of women and children; some were sitting under their buffalo-skin lodges lazily smoking their pipes; while the women were stooping over their fires busily employed in preparing meat and maize for these indolent lords of the creation.

Children at a lodge entranace (In a Pawnee village) Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871
Plate 51a – Children at a lodge entranace (In a Pawnee village) Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871

Far as the eye could reach, were scattered herds of horses, watched (or as we should say in Scotland, ‘tented’) by urchins, whose whole dress and equipment was the slight bow and arrow, with which they exercised their infant archery upon the heads of the taller flowers, or upon the luckless blackbird perched near them. Here and there might be seen some gay young warrior ambling along the heights, his painted form partially exposed to view as his bright scarlet blanket waved in the breeze.”8 Later he described the manner of moving and pitching their large temporary camps: “On reaching the camping-place, which is selected by the grand chief (or, in his absence, by the next in rank), the senior squaw chooses the spot most agreeable to her fancy, and orders the younger women and children, who lead the pack-horses and mules (generally from five to ten in number, according to the size or wealth of the family), to halt; but in making this choice of ground, she is restricted within certain limits, and those of no great extent, as the Pawnees observe great regularity both in their line of march and encampment. I could not ascertain whether these regulations were invariable, or made at the pleasure of the chief; but I believe the latter; and that on leaving their winter, or stationary, villages, he issues the general orders on this subject, which are observed during the season or the expedition; at any rate, they never varied during my stay among them.

Showing screen near same entrance (In a Pawnee village) Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871
Plate 51b – Showing screen near same entrance (In a Pawnee village) Photograph by W. H. Jackson, 1871

“They move in three parallel bodies; the left wing consisting of part of the Grand Pawnees and the Tapages; the centre of the ‘remaining Grand Pawnees; and the right of the Republicans. All these bodies move in ‘Indian file,’ though of course in, the mingled mass of men, women, children, and pack-horses, it was not very regularly observed; nevertheless, on arriving at the halting-place, the party to which I belonged invariably camped at the eastern extremity of the village, the great chief in the centre, and the Republiques on the western side; and this arrangement was kept so well, that, after I had been a few days with them, I could generally find our lodge in a new encampment with very little trouble, although the village consisted of about six hundred of them, all nearly similar in appearance.

“They first unpack and unsaddle the horses, which are given to a boy to drive off to their grass and water, they then arrange all their bales, saddles, &c. in a semi-circular form, and pile them from two to three feet high. Around the exterior of these they drive into the ground eight or ten curved willow rods, from two to three feet distant from each other, but all firmly bound by leather thongs to four large upright poles, that form the front of the lodge, and along which run transverse willow rods, to which the extremities of the curved ones are fastened. When the frame, or skeleton, is thus finished, they stretch the cover (made of buffalo hides, sewed together) tight over the whole, leaving an aperture for entrance and egress in the centre of the front; and in fine weather, the whole front open.

“This is an accurate description of a Pawnee summer-lodge: but, of course, the dimensions vary according to the number and wealth of the families residing therein; in some tents I have observed the front consisting of six or eight upright poles, to which were fixed more skins, for additional shelter or shade. On the grass, in the interior, are spread mats, made by the squaws from reeds, and skins of buffalo or bear.

“From the foregoing it will be easily understood that the bales of cloth, maize, skins, and whatever other property they possess, form the back of the tent. Each occupant, from the chief to the lowest in rank, has his assigned place ; sleeps upon his own blanket, or buffalo robe; has his bow and quiver suspended over his head; his saddle, bridle, and laryettes, &c. behind his back : and thus little confusion prevails, although each individual has only just room to sit or lie at full length.
“Before the tent a kind of shield is raised, upon three poles pyramidically placed, on which is the device of the chief, by which his tent is to be recognized. In the interior of the tent, and generally about the centre of its concave, is suspended the ‘medicine,’ which is most carefully and religiously preserved. Under the head of ‘medicine,’ the Indians comprise not only its own healing department, but everything connected with religion of superstition; all omens, all relics, and everything extraordinary or supernatural.”9

Late in the year 1835 Murray left the Pawnee encampment to return to Fort Leavenworth, but, meeting with an accident, was not able to proceed on his way. The Pawnee were likewise moving, and in moving over the prairie made a well-defined trail. Retracing his way, and seeking the Pawnee, he wrote: “About ten o’clock on the following day we found the great Pawnee trail, and, following it, came at mid-day to the place where they had camped the night before, and a most hideous spectacle did it present; the grass was all trodden into mud-hundreds of circular heaps of charred wood attested the number of fires that had been used; and the whole plain was strewed with split heads, bare skeletons, and scattered entrails of buffalo; while some hundreds of the half-starved Pawnee dogs who had lingered behind the village were endeavoring to dispute some morsels of the carcasses with the gaunt snarling wolves, who were stripping the scanty relics of skin and sinew which are left by Indian butchery attached to the bone.” This vivid description of the appearance of an abandoned camp site quite agrees with a reference made by Dr. Grinnell a few years ago. Writing of events during the year 1853, and alluding to an abandoned camp of the Pawnee that year discovered by the Cheyenne, he said: “It was a big camp; and there were many fires. It seemed as if the Pawnee had been camped there killing buffalo for a long time. There were still many dogs in the camp. On one side was a well-beaten trail which led to another camp two hundred yards off where a number of people had been camped, not in lodges but in shelters made of willow’s bent over, after the fashion of a sweat-house.”10

These temporary and easily erected structures of the Pawnee were probably quite similar in form and appearance to that of the Cheyenne, part of which is shown in plate 14. But in the latter instance the cover is not formed of the primitive buffalo skin, but of canvas, or some other material obtained from, the trader.
The Pawnee had a strange method of dealing with their sick or wounded during the movement of a village from place to place, and, so wrote Father De Smet, “if, in the long journeys which they undertake in search of game, any should be impeded, either by age or sickness, their children or relations make a small hut of dried grass to shelter them from the heat of the sun or from the weather, leaving as much, provision as they are able to spare, and thus abandon them to their destiny. If, some days after, they are successful in the chase, they return as quickly as possible to render assistance and consolation. These practices are common to all the nomadic tribes of the mountains.”11 It is more than probable that similar grass shelters were constructed and used by small parties when away from the villages, but such structures would necessarily have been of only temporary use.

In addition to the semicircular skin-covered lodge mentioned by Murray, the Pawnee evidently made use of the conical tipi. This was described by Dunbar when he wrote: “Their movable dwellings consist of from 12 to 20 poles (the number varying with the size) about 16 feet long, and a covering. Three of these poles are tied together near the top and set up. The string, with which these poles are tied together, is so long that one end of it reaches to the ground, when the poles are set up. The other poles are now successively set up save one, the top of each leaning against the three, first set up, and forming with them a circle. The string is then wound round them all at the top several times and fastened. The cover is tied to the top of the remaining pole by which it is raised up, then is spread round them all and tied together on the opposite side, where is the entrance formed by leaving the cover untied about three feet from the ground. Over the entrance the skin of a bear or some other animal is suspended. The tents are always set up with their entrances toward the east. At the top the smoke passes out among the poles a place being left for that purpose. The fire place, crane and hearth are similar to those in their fixed habitations. The furniture is placed back next the cover. Rush mats are then spread down forming a sort of floor. On these they sit, eat and sleep. The large tents are about 18 feet in diameter at the base. The tent covers are made of buffalo skins, scraped so thin as to transmit light, and sewed together. These when new are quite white, and a village of them presents a beautiful appearance. Some of them are painted according to Pawnee fancy. They carry their tent poles with them during their whole journey. From three to six of them, as the case may be, are tied together at the larger end, and made fast to the saddle, an equal number on each side, the other end drags on the ground.”12

From these various records it will be understood the Pawnee made use of several forms of temporary and comparatively easily transported and erected structures when away from their permanent villages of earth-covered lodges. And what is true of the Pawnee would probably apply to other tribes of the upper Missouri Valley.

The Pawnee, as did other tribes of the region, made long journeys away from their villages in quest of the buffalo, and an interesting account of their annual hunts, as conducted about the year 1835. has been preserved. Then it was told how “The Pawnee make two hunts each year, the summer and winter hunt. To perform the winter hunt they leave their villages usually in the last week of October, and do not return to them again till about the first of April. They now prepare their cornfields for the ensuing season. The ground is dug up with the hoe, the corn is planted and well tended. When it has attained to a certain height they leave it. and go out to their summer hunt. This is done near the last of June. About the first of September they return to their villages. Formerly the buffalo came down to and far below their villages. Now they are obliged to travel out from ten to twenty days to reach them. The buffalo are rapidly diminishing and will in time become extinct.

When they leave their villages to hunt the buffalo, they take every man and beast with them, and the place of their habitations is as desolate and solitary during their absence as any other spot on the prairie. When the time of departure arrives all the furniture and provisions they wish to carry with them are packed on the horses. The residue of their scant furniture and provisions are concealed in the earth till their return. As each family gets ready they fall into the train, which frequently extends some miles.”13 The narrative continues and relates many of the mannerisms of the people, and tells of their peculiar traits. And it is difficult to realize the great distance traveled during the hunting trips away from the permanent earth-lodge villages. Dunbar accompanied them on several of their hunts and wrote: “The first hunting tour I performed with them they traveled, from the time they left their village till they returned to it again in the spring, about 400 miles. During the first summer hunt I was with them they traveled 700 miles before returning to their village. During my second winter hunt they traveled 900 miles, second summer hunt 800 miles.”

The moving about over the vast rolling prairies of the people of an entire village, while on their distant hunts, covering many hundreds of miles, and carrying with them practically all of their belongings, with innumerable dogs and horses, stopping now to kill the buffalo and again pushing on in quest of more, constituted one of the most interesting and characteristic phases of primitive life on the prairies. But within a few decades all has changed, and now many towns and villages occupy the region once traversed by the roving bands.

Footnotes

  1. Pike, Z. M., An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi, and Through the Western Parts of Louisiana. Philadelphia, 1810, Appendix, p. 15. 

  2. James, Edwin, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, performed in the years 1819 and 1820. Philadelphia, 1823. 2 vols., pp. 367-368. 

  3. James, Edwin, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, performed in the years 1819 and 1820. Philadelphia, 1823. 2 vols., I, pp. 427-437. 

  4. James, Edwin, Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, performed in the years 1819 and 1820. Philadelphia, 1823. 2 vols., I, p. 447. 

  5. Irving, J. T., Indian Sketches, taken during an Expedition to the Pawnee Tribes. Philadelphia, 1836. 2 vols., II, pp. 44 15. 

  6. Dunbar, John, Journal of. In Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1915-1918, Vol. XIV. Topeka, 1918, p. 600. 

  7. Fremont, J. C., Report of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains in the year 1842, and to Oregon and North California in the years 1843-44. Washington, 1845, p. 78. 

  8. Murray, Charles Augustus, v, I, pp. 277-278. 

  9. Murray, Charles Augustus, Travels in North America during the years 1834, 1835, and 1836. London, 1839. 2 vols., I, pp. 282-286. 

  10. Grinnell, George Bird, The Fighting Cheyenne. New York, 1915, p. 86. 

  11. De Smet, P. J., Oregon Missions and Travels over the Rocky Mountains, in 1845, 46. New York, 1847, pp. 356-357. 

  12. Dunbar, John, Journal of. In Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1915-1918, Vol. XIV. Topeka, 1918, pp. 602-603. 

  13. Dunbar, John, The Presbyterian Mission among the Pawnee Indians in Nebraska, 1834 to 1836. In Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1909-10. Vol. XI. Topeka, 1910, pp. 329-330. 



MLA Source Citation:

Bushnell, David Ives. Villages of the Algonquian, Siouan and Caddoan Tribes West of the Mississippi. Published in Bulletin 77, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution. Washington. 1922. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 15 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/pawnee-tribe-houses.htm - Last updated on Jul 14th, 2014


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