Just west of the country claimed by the Otoe and Omaha tribes lived the Pawnee nation. Its principal villages were in the valleys of the Platte, Loup and Republican rivers. The Pawnee Tribe had about 10,000 people and spoke a language entirely different from that of any other Nebraska tribe.
The mainstay of each meal was first buffalo then corn. The women always cooked the food. In the earth lodge the women on the south side prepared one meal, while the women on the north prepared another. The Pawnee were farmers and hunters. Any good Pawnee hunter could fire arrows almost as fast as a rifleman could shoot. Sometimes it was done with so much force that the arrow would go all the way through the animal. They hunted buffalo, antelope, and wolves. They hunted and killed raccoons, otter, quails, skunks, and prairie chickens. They planted watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and many kinds of vegetables. They ate berries. They made and ate jerky, because they could save it for months.
The Pawnee did not waste very much of the buffalo. Each part had many uses. They ate the meat and made jerky, because they could save it for months. The four-chambered stomach lining of the buffalo was used to make cooking vessels and pails for carrying water.
The Pawnee lived in earth lodges next to rivers. They used tipis when they went buffalo hunting. Ten family members could fit in the earth covered houses and tipis. The Pawnee were famous for earth lodges. They made the roof of the earth lodges out of sticks and mud. Earth lodges were up to 15 feet high. Horses and dogs could fit in the earth covered houses.
Tipis were made of about 11 logs and buffalo skin. Eighteen people could fit into the tipis. Tipis were strong against the wind, and they were light to carry. They were portable for the tribes. Tipis had a smoke hole for cooking. In the winter they were pegged down into the ground. The buffalo skin was used in between the cracks.
The women used buffalo skin to make clothing for their people. In the summer most of the boys and men wore loin cloths and moccasins. For winter, to keep warm, they added robes and long leather pants. Men wore two belts. The first belt held up their loin cloths. The second belt was made with thick hide and was used to hang the tomahawk, knife, gun, and pipe. In the summer women and girls wore skirts and moccasins. Moccasins are shoes made out of skunk, otter, and other animal skins. The beads on the moccasins were made out of wood that the Pawnee carved. They used rocks to color them. They loved to decorate their clothing too. They wore buckskin dresses or wrap around skirts with an overblouse and leggings in the winter. Pawnee men and women all pierced their ears because they loved the beautiful earrings. No one ever wore hats unless it was a part of a costume for a ceremonial occasion. For special performances the people would paint and decorate clothing.
The men of the tribe were hunters. They also helped with farming. Men usually had more than one wife. The women were hard workers. The women had the job of cultivating the soil. They also had more than one husband.
Children considered all of the tribe's children their brothers and sisters. Pawnee children would treat their parents with respect. The children would live with the wife because the Pawnee man could have more than one wife. The grandfather's job was to play with the little kids.
The Pawnee stayed in one place. They liked to dance and lived together in harmony. They lived in permanent villages with the houses spread apart. The Pawnee loved to decorate their tents with colorful items. They used porcupine quills for decorating clothing and tents. They dyed quills for different designs. The Pawnee also colored glass beads.
The hairs of a buffalo were used to make brushes and were also braided and made into rope. The hooves were used to make ceremonial rattles. Dried buffalo dung or chips were used to fuel fires.
The Pawnee had lots of festivals. The harvest festival was held in the fall and lasted two weeks and six days. The Pawnee's festivals were held when people could see the stars. They believed it would help lead them home.
The medicine men were important in the life of the Pawnee. They performed ceremonies to keep away storms. They used magic to help their people. They used herbs and magic objects.
The Pawnee believed in a main spirit, the Tirawa, who made the earth and the heavenly bodies. Most of the bright stars and planets were made by Tirawa and were considered Gods. Four of the bright Star Gods were believed to hold up the heavens. Two of the Tirawa's creations were the morning star and the evening star.
The Pawnee didn't take orders easily from authority. They preferred to deal with their enemies. They were easy targets because their houses were spread out. They were difficult to defend. The wandering tribes of the plains always knew where the Pawnee would be. Pawnee heroes are men that died fighting to defend their wife and children.
At first the Pawnee didn't move around much. They lived in permanent villages because they were mainly farmers. When they hunted they used dogs or horsesto carry packs or pull travois. . They also used the horses for buffalo hunting.
The name, “Pawnee” comes from the native word ‘pariki; meaning ‘a horn’; referring to their scalp-lock.
The Pawnee Women developed the art of pottery making.
Women were active participants with tribal trade relations not only in producing goods but also in controlling the distribution of the surplus within and beyond the tribe.
Women were also included in various ceremonies pertaining food production, bountiful harvests, and buffalo calling.
Women were perceived as having the power of life.
The women would carry their babies in a cradle on their backs. The cradles were made of a long flat cottonwood board that was slightly wider at the top than at the bottom. There were painted symbols of Morning Star and Sun on the cradle. The cradle was covered with skin of a spotted wild cat which was the emblem of a starry sky. The board hooped over the child's head that had a painted rainbow on it.
Women assisted their husbands in handling and caring for their medicine bundles.
Class distinctions favored chiefs and priests. Each chief of a village or band had a sacred bundle. Their priest/medicine man had special powers to treat illness and to ward off enemy raids and food shortages. Priests were trained in the performance of rituals and sacred songs. The
Pawnee also had hunting and military societies. Wearing the Pawnee skin shirt was one of the outstanding symbols of high status. Very few men were privileged to wear them. Most ceremonial shirts had quilted or beaded bands over their shoulders. Painted hands indicated hand-to-hand combat.
The Pawnee identified the heavenly gods with the stars. They believed some of the stars to be gods and used astronomy throughout their daily activities. The stars would indicate when to plant corn.