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Indigenous Peoples' Literature


"Oh, Eagle, come with wings outspread in sunny skies. Oh, Eagle, come and bring us peace, thy gentle peace. Oh, Eagle, come and give new life to us who pray."

"Remember the circle of the sky, the stars, and the brown eagle, the great life of the Sun, the young within the nest. Remember the sacredness of things.

Pawnee Prayer


Making the Sacred Bundle
Prisoners of Court House Rock

The Pawnee Indians of North America posse one of the oldest native American cultures of the Great Plains. Sometime after about AD 1200 these Caddoan speakers entered the plains from east of the Mississippi River and settled near the Platte River in present-day Nebraska.

From the beginning they grew corn, beans, pumpkins, and fruit, and they harvested a perennial plant of grassy cereal-like grain found in wet or swampy areas, called "wild oats" by the French, and similar to wild rice of today, and hunted for their game and fish. Their women are skillful weavers and pottery makers. Elaborate forms of religious ceremonies are presided over by a strong tribal priesthood. Primarily, the Pawnees are nature worshippers.

Four independent Pawnee bands lived in villages composed of large, sturdy earth lodges adjacent to their maize fields. After planting and after harvest they made two tribal migrations a year to hunt the plains bison herds for meat and skins. Storage of dehydrated meat and vegetables assured an ample food supply. Their highly developed religion, directed by an organized priesthood, taught that all energy is derived from the stars and constellations; it may have been influenced by ancient Mexican civilizations. The chief of each village received instructions from a celestial body, whose sacred objects he held. One of the many Pawnee rituals demands that every spring a young female captive be sacrificed to the Morning Star to compensate for his part in the creation of humanity.

Attacked by nomadic hunting tribes, who were fleeing from European colonization farther east, pressed also by incursions of the westbound pioneers, and weakened by smallpox and cholera, the Pawnee accepted a reservation in Nebraska in 1857. They later joined their relatives the WICHITA in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) in 1876.

Although centered in Oklahoma, Pawnee now live and work all over the United States. Estimated at 10,000 in 1790, the Pawnee nation numbered 2,428 in 1988.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.