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The Pawnees






Source: Legends Of The Kaw

When the Territory of Louisiana was still the property of France; when
the United States was endeavoring to subdue the savages within its own
domain; a wild and unsophisticated people, to whom the vices of
civilization were as yet unknown, traversed the broad prairies of Kansas
and Nebraska.

The Pawnees, or Pani, were, according to tradition, of southern origin.
The white man found them established in villages along the Platte River,
whence they sallied forth, roving over the entire region extending from
the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains and carrying terror to all who
ventured opposition. None were more relentless in war or more ready to
seek revenge. The word Pani, meaning "horn," was supposed to have
reference to a peculiar custom of wearing the scalp-lock dressed to
stand upright like a horn. The Pawnees were often called "wolves," on
account of a singular aptitude in imitating those animals. When desirous
of noting the movements of the enemy without being detected in so doing,
they frequently put on the skins of wolves and dropped upon hands and
knees as soon as near enough to be observed. Becoming common objects of
the landscape, they remained unnoticed.

The nation was composed of three bands, federated under one chief. In
order of importance, they were the Chau'-i (In-the-Middle),
Kit-ke-hahk'-i (On-the-Hill), and Pit-hau'-erat (Down-the-Stream). These
names were given with reference to the relative position of the
villages. The Ski-di, or Loups, whose history is somewhat obscure,
united with the tribe at some period after it had become settled along
the Platte River. Western men called the different bands the Grand,
Republican, Tapage and Wolf Pawnees. The Ski-di were more intelligent
and fierce than their neighbors. After they united with the tribe, there
were four important villages. The Tuhk-pah-huks'-taht (Pumpkin-vine
Village) derived its name from the fact that once, during the absence
of the people upon a long summer hunt, the pumpkin vines grew until they
climbed over the lodges, almost hiding them from view. This was
considered a miraculous occurrence.

One cold winter, when food was scarce, a band went into camp near the
Loup River. Just below the village large numbers of buffaloes came to
cross upon the ice. The Indians succeeded in killing so many of the
animals that, having dried all the meat required, they preserved the
skins only, leaving the bodies to be devoured by wolves. About this time
a member of a starving band arrived and expressed great wonderment as to
the way in which they had obtained so much meat. Taking him down to the
river, his friends pointed out the spot on the ice where wolves,
standing in a pool of water caused by a slight thaw, were feasting upon
the buffaloes. Going back to his own band, the Ski-di told of plenty in
the other camp, and when questioned as to its location, replied:
"Ski-di-rah'-ru" (Where the wolves stand in the water). From this
incident the second village took its name. The third and fourth were
Tuh-wa-hok'-a-sha (Village-on-a-Ridge) and Tu-hi-'ts-pi-yet
(Village-on-a-Point).

In ancient times the Pawnees had no horses and went hunting on foot.
Arrow heads were made of flint or deer horns. Until a recent date, the
old stone arrow heads were believed to have supernatural power. White
traders introduced those made of iron. The warriors were skillful
marksmen and the bow and arrow remained the favorite weapon as long as
there were buffaloes to kill. The endurance of the Pawnees, when
hunting, was remarkable. In the first place, scouts were sent out to
look up a herd. Having discovered one, they returned with information
regarding its location. The hunters, disguised as wolves, advanced in a
body until within sight, then scattered, forming a large circle, which
gradually became less, as they closed in upon the animals. When near
enough to begin the attack, a man shouted to attract attention, and the
startled buffaloes ran, some one way and some another. Wherever they
turned, an Indian, casting off his wolf skin, sprang up and drove them
back. At length, the Pawnees, yelling and waving blankets and shooting
in the midst of the herd, wore them out. The great beasts, when too
tired to run, were easily despatched.



Before the advent of the trader, all portions of the buffalo were
utilized. Hoes were made from the shoulder blades, needles from bone,
spoons and ladles from the horns, ropes from the hair, lariats from
raw-hide, clothing from the dressed skins, and blankets and tents from
the robes. Pottery was formed from clay mixed with pounded stone,
moulded in hollows in stumps of trees, and baked. Wooden mortars and
bowls were hollowed out by fire.

The Pawnee nation was ruled by a head chief of the Chau'-i band. The
office was hereditary but became difficult to retain if the chief were
unpopular. Each band was governed by four chiefs. Important affairs
were discussed in council, by chiefs, head men and warriors. Personal
character determined position, and the opinions of the majority
prevailed. There was a servant class, composed of young men and boys,
who lived in the families of men of prominence and performed menial
offices.

Breech-clouts, leggings, moccasins and blankets or buffalo robes
comprised the clothing of the men. Their heads were shaved, with the
exception of a narrow strip extending from each forehead to the back of
the head. The ridge of hair, less than an inch in length, was stiffened
to stand upright. From this fell the scalp-lock. The women were
accustomed to wear sleeveless shirts and skirts reaching below the
knees; also robes or blankets when necessary. There was no head
covering, except on great occasions, when some of the men donned
chaplets of eagle feathers. Red and yellow paint were used on breasts
and faces for ornament, while black paint was reserved for war. Boys
were permitted to go nude until ten or twelve years of age; but girls
dressed in little shirts almost as soon as they could walk. Infants were
placed upon boards.

A visitor at the home of a Pawnee chief, in the village on the Kansas
River, about the year 1839, described the toilet of the host's son as
extremely fanciful. On days when there was no hunt, the dandy began at
eight o'clock in the morning, by greasing his entire person with fat,
and painting his face red. Earrings and wampum necklaces were worn, and
yellow stripes adorned breast and shoulders. Armlets were placed above
his elbows and rings upon his fingers. Handsomely decorated moccasins,
scarlet leggings fastened to a belt, and bead garters four inches wide,
formed important parts of the costume. One of the women led his horse
before the tent. Its forehead and shoulders were painted red and a
feather fastened in its tail. Chains of steel were attached to the
bridle and bells to the reins. A scarlet mantle was thrown over the
young man's shoulders, and thus arrayed, with a large turkey feather
fan in one hand, and a whip upon his wrist, he ambled through the
encampment, eliciting admiration on all sides.

At a social gathering, the guest sang for the entertainment of the
Indians, and requested them to give him an example of their songs. The
white man portrayed the result in the following language:

"All rose at once. Each singer began by strange and uncouth sounds, to
work his mind and lungs up to the proper pitch of excitement; and when,
at length, the shrill and terrible cry rose to its full height, its
effect was astounding and sufficient to deafen a delicate ear."

The song, to which the savages kept time with heads and bodies, was
allowed to fall into monotonous cadence, then burst forth into full
chorus, with mingled howls and yells.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, Pawnee courtships were
peculiar. The lover first went to the father's tent, uninvited, and sat
in a corner of the mat for some time, then rose and departed without
speaking. A few days later, he returned, wearing his buffalo robe hair
side out, and sat silent. This was a regular proposal. If the father
desired to reject him at once, no skin was placed for him to sit upon
and no meat was offered him. If the suit met with approval, the rites of
hospitality were extended and feasts were given to obtain the consent to
the marriage, of the relatives of both families. The young man next
presented himself to his bride at the door of her tent, turned and
walked slowly toward his own. She arose and followed him. The ceremony
of marriage was then complete. Presents of horses, blankets and other
valuables were sent to the father of the young woman.

Plural marriage was practiced, the husband being entitled to wed the
younger sisters of his first wife.

In the permanent villages on the Platte River, circular lodges were
built of sod. Every house had a wall seven or eight feet in height,
around which, upon the floor, the inmates slept, each bed being
partitioned or curtained off. Hanging upon the wall or in the space back
of the bed, were the belongings of its occupant. The center of the house
was reserved for cooking, smoke escaping through an aperture in the
roof. Skin lodges were used when traveling or upon the semi-annual hunt.
Each family had many dogs.

After spring planting, the people abandoned their villages for the
summer hunt, returning in time for harvest. Religious ceremonies, with
fervent prayers to Ti-ra'-wa, the invisible yet ever-present Creator,
preceded departure. The Buffalo Dance, executed by the younger warriors,
came next. This continued for three days, when the line of march was
taken up. Tents, cooking utensils and the entire property of the tribe
having been packed on ponies and removed to the vicinity of a large herd
of buffaloes, camp was established and preparations made for curing the
meat when it should be brought in. Approaching to make the attack, a
limited number of chosen men, led by standard-bearers with sacred poles
wrapped in bright colored cloth and ornamented with bead-work and
feathers, advanced first. The remainder of the hunters followed. After
the slaughter, the squaws, with their sharp knives, amid much merriment,
cut and bore away to the camp the most desirable portions of meat.

Ti-ra'-wa, the Pawnee deity, was not personified, being intangible and
in and of everything. The nation did not adore any material substance,
but, like all aboriginal people, attributed to animals an intelligence
sometimes exceeding that of man. As the messengers of God, the
Na-hu'-rac received miraculous power through him, hence were often
implored to intercede with Ti-ra'-wa. In cases of great emergency,
direct intercession became necessary. A party prayed for success and
made sacrifices before starting on the war-path. Victory was
acknowledged by thanksgiving offerings. War parties were made up by
anyone with a grievance, if he had sufficient influence to secure
followers. Frequently scalps taken from the heads of enemies were
burned with much ceremony.

One of the best-known legends, related by George Bird Grinnell,
illustrates the power of animals in changing the fortunes of those who
listened to their behests.

An old woman lived on the outskirts of a village located on the bank of
the Platte River. At one time she had been the wife of a brave hunter
and warrior. During his life there was always a comfortable lodge, as
well as plenty of buffalo meat and robes. No one of the nation was more
successful in stealing horses from the enemy, which was considered a
highly honorable feat. He was killed in a great battle with the Sioux,
and the poor woman had never ceased to mourn. Now, in old age, there
remained but one relative, a grandson of sixteen years. Being reduced to
poverty, they were in the habit, when the tribe moved, of following in
the rear, in order to pick up anything that might have been left behind
as worthless. Once, to the delight of the boy, an old dun horse was
abandoned by its owner. The animal was blind in one eye and had a sore
back and a swollen leg; but was nevertheless valuable to the poor woman,
inasmuch as it could carry the cooking utensils and the worn-out skin
used for a lodge when traveling.

The village was moved to Court House Rock. Soon after arrival the young
men sent out to look for buffaloes returned with information that there
was a large herd in the vicinity, and among the animals was a spotted
calf.

The head chief had a young and beautiful daughter. He announced that
whosoever should kill the spotted calf should marry the girl. Since the
buffaloes were only four miles away, it was decided that the charge
should be made from the village. The one who had the fastest steed would
be most likely to obtain the calf. The poor boy made preparations to
ride the old dun horse. He was ridiculed to such an extent that he
withdrew to the bank of a creek, nearby. The animal turned its head and
said:

"Plaster me all over with mud. Cover my head, neck, body and legs."

The boy obeyed and the horse then ordered that he remain where they were
and make the charge from the creek. The men were drawn up in line and at
the word Loo ah (go), leaned forward, yelled and galloped away. At one
side, some distance away, the dun horse flew over the ground; he seemed
young and strong of limb and sure of foot. As they neared the buffaloes,
he dashed in among the herd and stopped beside the spotted calf. His
rider killed it, and taking another arrow, shot a fat cow, then
dismounting, secured the spotted skin. Cutting out certain portions of
the meat, the boy packed them upon the horse. Putting the skin on top of
the load, he led the animal back to camp. It pranced and curveted and
showed much spirit. The warriors were filled with astonishment. A rich
chief rode up to the boy and tried to buy the spotted robe, but without
success.

Some of the hunters reached the village in advance and informed the old
woman of her grandson's triumph. She could hardly believe the story,
and wondered if they were still ridiculing her boy. His appearance with
the coveted robe and more meat than they had had for many a long day,
ended her doubts; and there were great rejoicings in the tent.

At night the horse spoke to the boy, saying:

"To-morrow the Sioux are coming. There will be a battle. When they are
drawn up in line, jump on me and ride as hard as you can up to the head
chief and kill him and ride back. Ride up to them four times and kill
four of the bravest Sioux; but do not go the fifth time or you will get
killed or lose me."

The next morning, just at day-break, the Sioux rode over the top of the
hill and drew up in line of battle. They were attired in all the
trappings of war, and looked ferocious in their paint. The Pawnees had
no time for decoration, but hastily seized their weapons, cut the
lariats that bound their ponies, sprang upon them and rushed out of the
camp, when at the proper distance, forming in battle array opposite the
enemy.

It was the custom of these tribes, when ready for a fight, to confront
one another in two long lines. After a few moments of silence, some man,
desiring to distinguish himself, rode out from the attacking party and
exhorted his people, telling them of brave deeds in the past and of what
he now intended to do; then, turning quickly, he dashed toward the
enemy, hanging over the side of his pony and riding along in front of
the foe, discharging one arrow after another, in rapid succession. If
the brave were killed, his own people made no sign, until a man rode out
from the other side to challenge; but if he were fiercely set upon, they
united in a general attack.

The boy mounted the dun horse and joined the warriors. They looked
askance but were too excited to make comment. The wonderful horse
galloped out from the line and made for the head chief of the Sioux. The
boy quickly despatched the leader and rode back to the Pawnees. Four
times he went forward, and each time killed one of the bravest of the
enemy. Then, forgetting the warning, the boy charged again. An arrow
struck his horse and the rider had a narrow escape from death. The Sioux
cut and chopped the horse in pieces.

After a spirited conflict, the Pawnees were victorious. The following
day the boy went out to where the horse lay. Gathering up the pieces of
flesh, he put them in a pile, and wrapping himself in his blanket, sat
on the top of a hill not far away. He drew the robe over his head and
mourned. A storm arose suddenly. The wind blew and rain fell. Removing
the blanket from his face, the boy saw the pieces coming together and
taking form. Another storm succeeded. When it cleared away, he beheld a
slight movement of the horse's tail. Then the animal lifted its head
from the ground. After a fourth storm had spent its fury, the horse
arose and its owner hastened down the hill and led it home. It
cautioned him to render perfect obedience in the future, and said:

"Lead me away from the camp, behind that hill. Leave me there to-night
and come for me in the morning."

The boy did as directed and found, standing beside his old friend, a
beautiful white horse.

Leaving the dun horse a second night, the owner discovered a fine black
gelding in the morning. After ten nights, there were ten horses, each of
a different color. The boy was now rich and married the daughter of the
chief. Many years later he became the head of the nation. The old
grandmother was well cared for, and the dun horse, being considered
sacred, was never mounted except at a doctor's dance; but was led around
with the chief wherever he went.

The Pawnees believed that the Na-hu'-rac held council in five places. At
Pa-huk' (White Island) on the south side of the Platte River, opposite
Fremont, Nebraska; under an island in the Platte River, near Central
City (Dark Island), on the Loup Fork, opposite the mouth of Cedar River
(White Bank); and on the Solomon River, Kitz-a-witz'-uk,
(Water-on-a-Bank). This was a mound with a hole in the middle, through
which water might be seen. Articles were thrown in, as offerings to
Ti-ra'-wa. The fifth place, a hole in the side of a hill, was in Kansas.
It was indicated by a rock called Pa-hur' (Hill-that-points-the-Way).

An old story, current among the people, says that in the early days, in
one of the Pawnee tribes, was a boy, smaller than others of his age. He
refused to play with the children, preferring to spend much time alone.
His manner was strange and the child was frequently in tears. The father
and mother observed that he often pasted mud upon his head. This was the
sign of a doctor and designated faith in the earth. As the boy grew to
be a young man he appeared to have something constantly on his mind and
would fast for days, smoking and praying to Ti-ra'-wa during that time.
He doctored those who were ill, and, although rapidly becoming great,
was not proud. Nevertheless, the doctors of the tribe were jealous, and
one of them, a member of another clan, came to visit him. They ate,
talked and smoked together. The older man said:

"Now we will smoke my tobacco."

They did so, and he departed. As the summer weather came on, the young
healer began to feel sick. It was evident that the doctor had poisoned
him. He swelled up with a new disease and prayed almost unceasingly to
Ti-ra'-wa for relief. The people went on a hunt. He ascended a hill to
think and pray; and after making burnt offerings, mounted a horse which
the father had left behind, and journeyed east, instead of following the
tribe.

A few days later, the horse was sacrificed to Ti-ra'-wa and cut down the
back, so that animals could feed upon it. The unhappy young man called
upon the Na-hu'-rac to intercede for him. He traveled east to Pa-huk'
and fell asleep. A strange voice asked what he was doing there. No one
was in sight. The same thing occurred next night. The sick man answered
the voice this time, and begged for pity, but received no reply. The
fourth night something touched him and said:

"What are you doing here?"

There stood a big elk, with black eyes. It informed him that they were
directly over the home of the Na-hu'-rac. One night not long afterward a
bird came, saying:

"Come, let us go to the edge of the cut bank."

He obeyed, and the bird said:

"When I dive down, follow me."

Passing through the water, they soon stood at the entrance of a lodge
and could see a fire within. As they entered, the Na-hu'-rac made their
different noises. A bear was stationed at one side of the entrance and a
snake at the other. The head doctor was a white beaver. As they sat
down, the bird said:

"I have brought this man here and want you to take pity on him."

Taking the man's pipe, the bird held it out to the beaver. The white
beaver hesitated, but finally took the pipe. All the animals made a
sound, as if to say, "Loo-ah" (good). The beaver passed the pipe to
the other Na-hu'-rac and each one made a speech, saying that he had not
power to heal. None had the power. The elk then took the man to another
lodge but he was not cured. From there they went to the Loup River, to
the island in the Platte River and at last to the lodge under Center
Island; but without avail. The principal doctor said that the lodge at
Pa-huk' was the head. The bird took the man back.

The white beaver stood up and announced that he had sent the man to
others in order to see if they were equal to the lodge at Pa-huk'; then
going to the ground-dog, he extended the pipe. The ground-dog reached
out its paws, took the pipe, smoked and commanded the Pawnee to go and
sit opposite the fire. He was ordered to stand up while the Na-hu'-rac
sang and the ground-dog danced. Next they told him to lie down with his
feet toward the door. The head ground-dog jumped over him and was
observed to have a large piece of flesh in his mouth. Another dog
followed, and another, each eating a piece of flesh, until all had
passed over. This was kept up until they had eaten the swelling. The man
seemed to be dead. The head doctor spoke to the bears; they arose and
sang, then jumped on the body, shaking and pulling it around. After a
while the blood began to flow and the man breathed. He was entirely
restored to health and remained some time with the Na-hu'-rac, learning
their medical secrets. They told of the sky-house of Ti-ra'-wa and said:

"He made us; he made everything. Blow a smoke to each of the four
doctors; but blow four smokes to Ti-ra'-wa."

The man went home and got beads, pipes, tobacco and buffalo meat and
taking them back, threw them into the river to be carried down to the
Na-hu'-rac lodge at Pa-huk'; then he went to visit the doctor who had
made him ill. He said:

"When you visited me, we smoked your tobacco. To-day we will smoke
mine."

After smoking, the young medicine man went down to the river and blew
upon the ice, and in a moment, the river was full of blood. It was the
blood of the wicked doctor, whose dead body was found in the lodge,
perfectly hollow. The blood had gone into the river. The favorite of the
animals eventually became one of the most famous healers ever known in
the nation.

Priests and doctors were not identical. Priests were the mediums of
communication with Ti-ra'-wa and knew what was inside the sacred
bundles. The medicine man was called upon in case of sickness or injury.
The sacred bundles, many of which were of great age, hung opposite the
door of every house. On certain occasions, the contents formed a part of
religious ceremonies.

The Pawnees believed that the earth was first inhabited by a race of
giants, so large that they could carry buffaloes upon their backs. These
people did not acknowledge Ti-ra'-wa and grew more and more wicked. He
was angry and caused the water to rise and the ground to become soft
and the giants sank into the mud. The large bones found at different
times were thought to be their skeletons. A new race was created, from
which all nations sprang.

The Ski-di band offered human sacrifices to the morning star. A young
captive, taken in war, was selected and fattened, being treated kindly
during the days of preparation. He was permitted to know nothing of the
fate in store, until the four days' feast and dance. Old men at the ends
of the village called upon each male person to prepare bow and arrow and
be ready for the sacrifice. When the fatal day arrived, every woman had
a lance or stick, and every man held a pipe in one hand and bow and
arrow in the other.

At the west side of the village, two posts with cross poles were set up,
to which the captive was bound, hand and foot. Behind him came a man
carrying a buffalo heart and tongue, followed by a warrior with a
blazing stick, one with a bow and sacred arrow of flint, and another
with a stuffed owl. Wood was piled around upon the ground beneath the
cross poles. The man with a blazing stick lighted the fire. When it had
burned to the center of the pile, below the captive, the warrior with
bow and arrow stepped forward and shot him through, under the arms, so
that the blood would drip down upon the fire. The buffalo heart and
tongue were then placed upon the blaze. The man with the owl seized a
torch and burned the body four times, after which each male person
present shot an arrow into it, and each woman struck it with a stick.
The flesh was consumed by fire, while the people prayed.

John Greenleaf Whittier left, among his papers, a poem that has
immortalized

A LEGEND OF KANSAS.

Night had fallen upon the broad prairie--a moonless night. The chill air
vibrated with noise of barbarous laughs and yells. The measured tramp of
heavy feet and the Hoo-ah, Hi-yah of excited dancers seemed fiendish.
Dark, weird-looking figures might be seen, dimly, by the light of a
camp-fire; and in the center of the frenzied throng was a maiden, silent
and defiant. Around her feet was piled fuel for the sacrifice, for had
not the wise men of the Pawnees, who hold communion with the other
world, decreed that she should die by slow torture, to atone for
cruelties practiced by her father, a fierce chief of the Kansas Indians?
The innocent girl might not hope for pity at the hands of her nation's
bitterest foes; but she could show them how fearlessly her father's
daughter could face a horrid death; could shame their sons and warriors
by a brave, unmoved demeanor; and even now, as a small blaze started up
from the outer edge of the pile of sticks and began to creep slowly
toward the captive, the clear tones could be heard above the din,
chanting her own funeral hymn--the death song of her people.

Once in a while some old, decrepit squaw, with shrill and penetrating
voice, would heap fresh taunts upon the victim; and as the fire
brightened, upon the dusky faces might be seen the gleam of savage
hatred and of satisfied revenge. Wilder grew the howls; and still the
mournful tones resounded above the shouts of triumph. The flames closed
in around her, and they leaped up higher, toward the cross poles to
which she was bound, flashes of light revealed more fully the pale set
face of the doomed one. Now, she could feel the hot breath of fire.
Where was the Kansas chief? Had he taken refuge in the mountains of the
West and left his helpless daughter at the mercy of the enemy? Was all
hope lost? No, her quick ear caught the sound of horse's hoofs, muffled
by the soft prairie grass. The captors, with senses dulled by liquor,
kept up their shrieks of exultation. Though her heart was beating
loudly, she dared not cease the song. A moment and a brave young rider,
on his father's swiftest steed, dashed in among the dancers, hurled the
firebrands from around her and cut the thongs that bound the maiden. A
moment more, and they were safe without the startled crowd, flying over
the flower-strewn prairie, toward the country of the Kaws. In the words
of the great poet:

"Where the Kansas wanders free
By the willowy Siskadee
There their pictured tent is spread,
With the soft fur carpeted;
And that sweet young mother there
Smiling through her lavish hair,
Oft shall sing her hunter's glory,
Oft shall tell his daring story,
Till the listening Kansas maid,
Lying listless in the shade,
Dreams, perchance (for wild or tame
Woman's romance is the same),
Of some hero's circling arm
Shielding her from deadly harm;
And the Indian boy anear,
Leaning on his fishing spear,
Sees that same coy maiden bound
On the Pawnee's hunting ground--
He, upon his father's steed,
Hurrying at her cry of need--
Feels her arms around him thrown,
Feels her heart beat with his own,
And her soft breath, quick and low,
O'er his dark cheek come and go--
Hears behind the Pawnee yell
Fainter on the breezes swell--
Sees with joy the morning's beam
Flashing from his native stream,
As he drops his courser's rein
By the Kansas tent again."

John B. Dunbar, who, in relating the story, asserts that the captive was
a Comanche girl, has preserved the Indian song in honor of
Pit-a-le-shar'-u, the hero. The oft recurring portion

Lu! ti-wak'-o-le
We-tut-i-wit-a
Pit-a-le-shar'-u,

when translated, reads:

Well, he exclaimed,
You see I am come,
I, Pit-a-le-shar'-u.

Although among the fiercest of the prairie Indians, the Pawnees never
carried on an organized war against the Government. They were, however,
always on hostile terms with the Sioux, Kaws, Osages, Iowas, Sacs and
Foxes.



In a beautiful wooded region, near the Missouri River, were the villages
of the Iowas and Sacs. A vast extent of prairie reached west and
southward. The Indians lived in huts of bark stretched over poles.
Implements for out-door work consisted of the "squaw-axe" and hoe,
purchased from traders. Iron camp kettles, wooden bowls and ladles were
the only utensils for domestic use. The tribes still clung to barbarous
customs when the Highland mission was founded; and their teacher
narrated that, at one time, a great feast was given in his honor. The
principal article of food was a savory soup. He mentally congratulated
himself on having been presented with a dish so pleasing to the taste
that he might show due appreciation of the honor conferred upon him.
Suddenly one of the hosts, in broken English, said:

"Dig deep, dig deep!" The guest did so, and dipped up a ladleful of
white worms.

Missionaries found it difficult to check the wild propensities of their
pupils; and the war of extermination continued until stopped by the
United States Government. The diary of Father Irvin, who established the
school, makes special mention of a war in 1839, and a skirmish in which
nine Pawnees were slain near Arago, Nebraska. This was, doubtless,
considered of great importance, inasmuch as the prowess of the Pawnees
made it a difficult matter for less formidable warriors to win a
victory, if the sides were equally divided as to numbers. Highland
University is now located upon the war trail over which the party
passed.

Like others of the Sioux family, the Iowas indulged in dances before
setting forth on the war-path; and upon the return, the women executed
the Scalp Dance, in which they carried, attached to poles, not only the
scalps of enemies, but also fingers, toes and other mutilated portions
of bodies.

During the period of general, if not united, efforts against the
Pawnees, there was a conflict in which a small band was besieged on all
sides, supposedly by the Sioux. The weaker party took refuge in a
ravine, where the sunflowers grew tall, and, protected by the thick
stalks, which turned the balls aside, made a brave fight for life. After
repeated attacks, the assailants withdrew, bearing the body of their
leader, who had been killed in the struggle. The Pawnees regained their
town without the loss of a man.

As immigration increased, settlers took possession of parts of their
reservation. It was the old, pitiful tale. The tribe, reduced by war and
famine, relinquished its land and reluctantly departed for the Indian
Territory. Being an agricultural as well as a courageous people, the
last of the Pawnees have developed into excellent farmers. Maize, which
was called A-ti'-ra (mother), proved, after all, to be their best
friend.





Next: The Sioux

Previous: Indian Mythology



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