Pawnee Indians

Occupying land along the Platte River in Nebraska, the Pawnee Indians farmed (corn, beans, squash, and melons) and hunted buffalo.

They lived in dome-shaped lodges covered by willow branches, grass, or earth. When hunting, they used teepees to follow the herds.

Pawnee women, who were highly skilled at making pottery, controlled trade and the distribution of goods within the tribe, while men were tribal chiefs, hunters, and warriors.

Names and meanings:

The Pawnee Indians call themselves “Chatix si Chatix” or “men of the people” in their native language.

Traditional home territories

The traditional home communities of the Pawnee Indians were primarily located in what is now the central United States. Their ancestral land covered parts of what is now Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming.

Language family

The Pawnee language belongs to the Caddoan language family. At the time of European contact there were approximately 10,000 Pawnees, who predominantly spoke the Pawnee language. However, the number of fluent Pawnee speakers has decreased dramatically due to the impact of colonization, forced migration, and other factors.

As of September 2021, there are only a few dozen fluent Pawnee speakers remaining, leaving this Native language in grave danger.

Traditional Allies

Historically, the Pawnee made alliances with various tribes and groups, including the Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa, which are known collectively today as the Three Affiliated Tribes, and the  Wichita.  They established relations with European fur traders and later with the United States government.

The Pawnee did not war against the settlers, but became allies of the U.S. Army, providing them with scouts and warriors during the Indian Wars. Their allegiance to the U.S. was not rewarded, and in 1876 the Pawnee were forced to sell their land and relocated to Oklahoma.

Traditional Enemies

The Pawnee had conflicts and rivalries with several Plains tribes, including the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Comanche. Often, these conflicts stemmed from competition for resources such as hunting grounds and territories.

Historical Population

Before European contact, the Pawnee population was estimated at 10,000 people. However, diseases, conflicts and other factors brought by European colonization caused their numbers to plummet. By the end of the 19th century, their numbers had dwindled to about 2,000.

The Europeans came into close contact with the Pawnee during the early 1800s as trails to the west were established through their territory. This brought devastating diseases, such as smallpox, which killed nearly half of the tribe in 1831 and an epidemic of cholera that killed many more in 1849.

Current Population

As of 2021,  enrollment was reported to be about 3,200. It is important to note that the total population of Pawnee descents can be mopre substantial, including many individuals who may not be enrolled members of the tribe.

Pawnee History

The Pawnee have long inhabited the Central Plains of North America. They were a semi-nomadic people who relied on agriculture (mainly corn and poultry) and hunting and gathering. They formed settled villages and had complex social and political structures.

European contact brought about major changes in the Pawnee way of life. In the 18th century they encountered European fur traders and later the consequences of expansion into the American West. The Pawnee made a treaty with the United States government, which destroyed their ancestral land and forced them to move to the reservations.

The Pawnee Tribes Today

Today, the Pawnee tribe is primarily represented by the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. The tribe is headquartered in Pawnee, Oklahoma, and has its own government and tribal systems. Pawnees maintain their cultural traditions and work to revitalize their language.

Additionally, individuals of Pawnee descent may be scattered throughout the United States and may or may not be enrolled members of the tribe.