Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pawnee Tribe


The name, Pawnee, is probably derived from parika, a horn, a term used to designate the peculiar manner of dressing the scalp-lock, by which the hair was stiffened with paint and fat, and made to stand erect and curved like a horn.  This marked features of the Pawnee gave currency to the name and its application to cognate tribes. The people called themselves Chahiksichahiks, `men of men.'

The following is the official internet site of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma:

The Pawnee originally were located in an area roughly in Nebraska, South Dakota and Kansas as shown on the map below:

Map Showing location of Pawnee Indians

The Pawnee Tribe then, as it is now, was composed of four distinct bands: the Chaui "Grand"; the Kitkehahki, "Republican"; the Pitahawirata, "Tappage"; and Skidi, "Wolf". Each band went on separate hunts and often fought separate battles.  This is according to the official site of the Pawnee Tribe listed at the beginning.

Pawnee Chief - Tarecawawaho

A chief of note was Tarecawawaho.  Tarecawawaho was a brave and enterprising leader, as indeed those usually are who obtain power in these warlike tribes; for the office of chief is no sinecure among a people so continually exposed to various dangers. He had also a large share of that pride, the offspring of ignorance, which is often the principal ingredient in the magnificence of sovereignty, and especially in the savage state.

When invited to visit the President of the United States, he refused to do so, upon the ground that it would be too great a condescension. The Pawnees, he asserted, were the greatest people in the world, and himself the most important chief He was willing to live at peace with the American people, and to conciliate the government by reciprocating their acts of courtesy. But he argued that the President could not bring as many young men into the field as himself; that he did not own as many horses, nor maintain as many wives; that he was not so distinguished a brave, and could not exhibit as many scalps taken in battle; and that therefore he would not consent to call him his great Father. He did not object, however, to return the civilities of the President, by sending a delegation composed of some of his principal men; and among those selected to accompany Major O'Fallon to Washington on this occasion, was,  Sharitarish
Pawnee Chief - Sharitarish

Chief Sharitarish

Sharitarish was of noble form and fine bearing; he was six feet tall, and well proportioned; and when mounted on the fiery steed of the prairie, was a graceful and very imposing person age. His people looked upon him as a great brave, and the young men especially regarded him as a person who was designed to great distinction.

After his return from Washington his popularity increased so greatly as to excite the jealousy of his elder brother, Tarecawawaho, the head chief, who, however, did not long survive that event. Tarecawawaho died a few weeks after the return of Sharitarish, who succeeded him, but who also died during the succeeding autumn, at the age of little more than thirty years.

Pawnee Chief - Ishcatape

Sharitarish was succeeded by his brother Ishcatape, the wicked chief, a name given him by the Omaha, or Pawnee Mahas, and which also has been applied by some to the subject of this notice.

Pawnee Scouts

In 1864 Indian attacks along the Platte River road became epidemic. Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Lakota Sioux increased their attacks in the Republican and Platte valleys in retaliation for the federal government's war against the Santee Sioux in Minnesota and the massacre of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle's people at Sand Creek, Colorado. The attacks became so severe and so frequent, that freighting companies ceased operations and settlers fled eastward in panic. The federal government decided to launch a military campaign against the hostile tribes and Fort Kearny would play a pivotal role in military operations.
While on his way to Fort Kearny to organize an expedition against "hostile" Indians, General Sam Curtis, head of the Department of Kansas, stopped at Columbus, Nebraska to inquire about enlisting Pawnees. Two local interpreters, Frank North and Joseph McFadden, accompanied the general to the Pawnee Agency near Genoa, where they recruited seventy Pawnee warriors to serve as scouts on the expedition. General Curtis favored the idea of using Indians who were friendly with whites as allies against "hostile" Indians. Curtis believed the Pawnees might be inclined to ally with the U.S. since they were traditional enemies of the Lakota and they were on the verge of going to war with their enemies. The Pawnees agreed to join General Curtis who promised bonuses if they furnished their own horses. The Pawnees proceeded to Fort Kearny where they joined the mounting expedition.

The officers at Fort Kearny were very interested in the Pawnees and curious to see how they would handle themselves. The Pawnees spent two weeks at Fort Kearny organizing with other units before they embarked on their campaign. The Pawnees impressed General Curtis, who, after returning to Fort Kearny, ordered Frank North to organize an entire company of Pawnee scouts and made North the commander. North went to the Pawnee Agency and, after visiting with Pawnee leaders, enlisted 100 Pawnee scouts. In the Fall of 1865 the Pawnees left Columbus for Fort Kearny where they wintered. Captain Lee Gillette commanded Fort Kearny and he ordered Frank North to drill the Pawnees in manual of arms. North attempted the training but it was a complete failure. The Pawnees did not understand the English commands and there were no words in their language that expressed such military orders. North informed Captain Gillette that the Pawnees would either need to learn English or new words would need to be added to the Pawnee language. Gillette did not like either proposition and conceded that the Pawnees would never become infantrymen. Instead of becoming regular soldiers, the Pawnees operated as scouts, a task they had trained for since childhood.

Buffalo Bill Cody

An example of the scouting abilities of the Pawnees took place during the 5th Cavalry's Republican River Expedition in 1869. Buffalo Bill Cody accompanied this expedition and saw first hand the skills of the Pawnee scouts. During the expedition, the 5th Cavalry followed a horseshoe shaped trail that traversed more than 150 miles across Nebraska and Kansas. Leading the troops and following the trail was a young Pawnee scout. As the unit moved through the thick buffalo grass, Cody became frustrated and asked Luther North, the commanding officer of the Pawnee scouts, if the Pawnee scout was actually following an Indian trail. North told Cody that he believed the scout was on to something but he was not certain. Cody again complained, pointing out that he saw no signs of horse tracks or blemishes in the grass. Eventually Cody and North rode up to the scout and asked him what he was following. The Pawnee replied that he was following a fresh set of pony tracks. The young scout looked up and pointed to a distant ridge of sand hills, about three miles ahead. The Pawnee scout informed Cody and North that when they reached that point they would find a definitive Indian trail. When they finally reached the location, there it was...they found numerous pony tracks and a clear Indian trail. Cody was now convinced of the Pawnee's tracking skills and commented that he was one of the best that he had ever seen.


Pawnee Scout - White Horse

The Pawnee scouts played a pivotal role over the next thirteen years in helping the U.S. Army defeat Indians at war with the U.S. The Pawnees usually rode in front of the regiment and when an enemy was discovered the scouts were the first, and sometimes only, soldiers to engage the enemy. If the opportunity permitted itself, the Pawnees stripped off their clothes and removed their saddles from their horses, making them faster so that they could engage the enemy before they dispersed. During their tenure, the Pawnees helped defeat the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, protected the Union Pacific railroad, helped subjugate the Northern Cheyennes, and assisted in defeating their long-time enemy, the Lakotas. They fought gallantly and one scout, Angry Bear, was awarded the Medal of Honor. Arguably, the Pawnee scouts were the best military unit stationed at Fort Kearny.

Frank North

Major Frank North

The few United States soldiers on our frontier were not experienced in fighting Indians. A call was made for Pawnee scouts. Frank North was then twenty-four years old and a clerk at the Pawnee agency in what is now Nance County. He had settled at Columbus in 1858, lived among the Pawnees, learned their language and gained their confidence. He was made first lieutenant of the first company of Pawnee scouts, and soon after became captain, then major and remained their leader until they were mustered out of service.

 In 1867 Captain North was made major of a battalion of four companies of Pawnees, fifty Indians in each company. They were armed with the new Spencer repeating rifles or "seven shooters" and their special duty was to protect the workmen in building the Union Pacific Railroad. The hostile Indians had nearly stopped its construction by killing men, burning stations and running off stock.
Treatment by the U.S. Government

The Pawnee battalion took up this work with delight. It had 300 miles of road from Plum Creek (now Lexington), in Dawson County to the Laramie Plains, to protect. The Sioux were completely surprised when they found their old enemy the Pawnees on their trail, with good horses and rifles and the United States back of them. After one or two sharp skirmishes, in which they were chased long distances with loss, their raids on the railroad became rare.
Although the Pawnees never waged open war against the U.S. Government and were classified as a "friendly tribe", extra privileges were not gained. The government felt the need to placate warring tribes with gifts, which sometimes consisted of rifles to hunt buffalo. These rifles were in turn used against other tribes, including the Pawnees, who were not so fortunately armed.

The Pawnees unwillingly ceded their lands to the U.S. Government in 1833, 1848, 1857 and 1872.

Move to Oklohoma - 1875

In 1875 the Pawnee Indians were moved from their reservation in Nebraska to a reservation in Oklahoma.

The following map shows where their reservation is located in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Territory Map - Shows location of the Pawnee Tribe

Today, the tribal enrollment numbers a little over 2,500 members and Pawnees can be found in all areas of the United States as well as foreign countries in many walks of life. Pawnees take much pride in their ancestral heritage. They are noted in history for their tribal religion, rich in myth, symbolism and elaborate rites.