- Mary Riemer-Weller
Native American tribe of the south-central Plains, formerly a confederacy of the Skiri, Chawi, Pithawirata, and Kitkahahki Indians. Before the mid-19th century the Pawnee lived in permanent earth-lodge villages along the rivers of Nebraska and northern Kansas. They subsisted by cultivating corn, beans, and squash, and by taking part in buffalo hunts twice a year. During the 19th century the traditional life of the Pawnee was threatened by a severe population decline and by their relocation to Oklahoma, directed by the US government, during the period 1875–6. This article is principally a description of Pawnee culture before its disruption.
The Pawnee are noted for their elaborate religious system and mythology based on cosmological powers, and for the beauty of the songs and rituals related to their ceremonial life. Almost all important ceremonies were associated with sacred bundles believed to have derived from supernatural powers. Bundles attributed to celestial powers were owned by each village and used by priests to perform ceremonies necessary for the welfare of the community; those attributed to animal supernatural powers belonged to doctors’ and warriors’ societies and were used for the benefit of the individual....