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Skidi Indians (probably from tski, ‘i, `wolf,’ or skirircrra, ‘ wolves standing in water,’ referring to a tribal tradition) . One of the tribes of the Pawnee Confederacy, sometimes called Wolf Pawnee, and by the French Pawnee Loup. That the Skidi were closely associated with the idea of the wolf is evident from the sign language, in which they are designated by the sign for that animal. The speech of the Skidi differed slightly from that of the other 3 Pawnee tribes. According to tradition the Skidi and Arikara were once united, but became separated during the northward migration, the Arikara keeping to the Missouri valley and the Skidi settling on Loup River, Nebraska, where finally the other 3 Pawnee tribes built their villages. The wanderings and adventures of the Skidi are matters of tradition rather than of history. They have so long regarded the valley of the Loup as their home that they have located in that vicinity the supernatural underground dwellings of the mythic animals which preside over the ceremonies of their secret societies. When first known to the white race the Skidi were farther north than the other 3 Pawnee tribes. Tradition indicates that this tribe was the first to push northward from their old home in the southwest. There are stories of the Skidi having been conquered by the other Pawnee tribes, but these may refer rather to local tribal quarrels and not imply subjugation, for the Skidi have ever kept their distinctive organization and have tenaciously preserved their tribal rite, with their esoteric teachings.
According to information obtained by Bolton from Spanish manuscript sources; a part of the Skidi (or “Pani-Maha,” as they were called) moved southward and about 1770 approached the Texas border. One of the conditions of the general peace that was established between the Spaniards and the northern Texas tribes in 1772 was that these tribes should consent to be moved south, away from the influence of the Pani-Maha1. About 1777 a group of the Pani-Maha joined the Taovayas (Tawehash) settlement. When Meziéres was there in 1778 they had temporarily withdrawn, but he urged them to return, which then did within a year. From this time on they seem to have formed an important part of the Taovayas settlement, which was called by Sibley, in 1805, that of the “Panic or Towiaches”2. A Mexican map of 1862 shows a “Pannis” village near the head of Sulphur Creek, northeast Texas3.
During the two centuries prior to their removal from Nebraska to Indian Territory in 1874 the Skidi, in common with the other Pawnee tribes, fought to hold their hunting grounds against intruders, and to that end strove for the possession of horses. The securing of this class of booty was the chief incentive of war parties, and the possession of ponies became the sign of wealth. The history of the Skidi does not differ materially from that of the other Pawnee tribes. They joined in the treaties with the United States, served as scouts in its army, and followed their kindred to Oklahoma, where they live today, owning lands in severalty as citizens of the United States. There were no missions established especially for the Skidi; they were included in those maintained for all the Pawnee.
The organization of the Skidi is perhaps more fully carried out in accordance with the religious beliefs of the people than that of the other Pawnee tribes. They say they were organized by the stars, which powers “made them into families and villages, taught them how to live and how to perform their ceremonies.” Five villages formed the central group. The village at the west led in religions ceremonies and had no secular function except in times of dire distress. The other 4 villages of the group were situated as at the corners of a square, the sides of which faced the cardinal directions. Following an established rotation, each village led in tribal affairs during one year–a winter and a summer. The position of these 5 villages and of the other 17 of the tribe were all fixed by the position of the stars which had given them their shrines and ceremonies, so that the Skidi villages on the earth were like a reflection of their stars in the heavens. The star gave its name to the shrine, and the village took its name from the shrine or from some incident connected with its bestowal by the star. A secular name indicative of locality was sometimes added. The shrine was given by the star to a certain man, and his descendants became its hereditary keepers. The immediate care and protection of the shrine devolved on a woman descendant. The ceremonies and rituals pertaining to the shrine were in charge of a priesthood, into which anyone of good character might enter after instruction and the performance of certain duties.
To the Skidi the universe was dual – male and female – and on the conjunction of these two forces depended the perpetuation of all forms of life. A ceremony exemplifying this belief, in which was the sacrifice of a girl, topical of the evening star, to the masculine morning star, was performed among the Skidi as late as the first quarter of the 19th century. The various ceremonies of the villages began with the first thunder in the spring and closed when the winter sleep set in. The social customs and avocations of the Skidi did not differ from those of the other Pawnee tribes.
For Further Study
The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Skidi as both an ethnological study, and as a people. Consult
- G. A. Dorset, Traditions of the Skidi, 1904.
- Dunbar, Pawnee Indians, 1880-82.
- Fletcher, The Hake, in 22d Rep. R. A. E., 1903.
- Fletcher in Am. Anthr., iv, 730, 1902.
- Grinnell, Pawnee Hero Stories, 1889.
- See Petalesharo.