The Powerful Pawnee of Kansas

As in the case of the Osage and Kansas, much of the history of the Pawnees was told in the accounts of explorations. It has been already noted that the view that the Turk was a Pawnee was scarcely tenable. It is much more likely that he was a Quapaw. In the account of Coronado the argument was made that Quivira was the country immediately north of the Arkansas River, extending to the northern watershed of that stream, and the land of the Wichita. Also that Harahey was the country of the Pawnees, and began at the north boundary of the Wichita domain, or Quivira. From these conclusions future students are not likely to depart. Investigations to be made will, no doubt, confirm them. In the account of the Kansas the bounds of the country of the Caddoan linguistic family were discussed. There is no fear that the views there arrived at can be successfully controverted. Prior to the northward migration of the Kansas from the mouth of the Osage the Caddoan eastern boundary was the Missouri River. The Kansas penetrated the Caddoan country to the mouth of Independence Creek, but were there halted by the Pawnees, who continued to dwell on the west bank of the Missouri about the mouth of Wolf River into historic times. The tribes of the Siouan family passed to the Upper Missouri by keeping to the east shore of that stream and to the country still eastward. The Caddoan territory taken by the Kansas and held when they lived at Independence Creek did not extend westward from the Missouri beyond the heads of the small streams. And the Kansas did not venture into the valley of the Kansas River until long after the establishment of Louisiana. The Pawnees kept the Kansas confined to the narrow strip along the Missouri until the shifting of the tribes and their concentration in villages due to the coming of the white man, and the appearance of white traders among them. Then the Pawnees ceased to defend the valley of the Kansas River below the mouth of the Big Blue. Finding the valley practically abandoned, the Kansas entered it and ascended it to the Blue, but were ever in terror of the more powerful Pawnees. These matters are all factors in determining the extent of the explorations of Coronado and subsequent Spanish expeditions. In treating the Pawnees it was found necessary to make this review of tribal holdings and movements west of the Missouri.

The Pawnee lands in Kansas were taken by the Government through treaties with the Kansas and Osages. The cession of the Pawnees in Kansas was insignificant. They had a much better title to Kansas west of the Blue than any other tribes. Irving found the remains of their towns on the Cimarron as late as 1832. Brower claimed to have traced them or their kindred from the Ozarks to the forks of the Kansas River. They lived on the Lower Neosho, in the vicinity of the present Vinita, in the time of Du Tisne. But they were despoiled by the agents of the Government, and their place in Kansas history was thereby circumscribed.

The name Pawnee, Dunbar tells us, comes from the word pá-rik-i, a horn. The tribal mark of the Pawnees was the scalp-lock. No other tribe had one like it. With the Pawnees the scalp-lock was bound about and held in a solid body by buffalo tallow and the paints used by the Indians. It was thus so stiffened that it stood erect. Sometimes it was curved back in the shape of the horn of a buffalo bull. It is said that the term, pá-rik-i, at one time embraced the Pawnee Picts, known to us now as the Wichita Indians.

The four bands of the Pawnees were known among themselves by the following names:

  1. Xau-i, or Grand Pawnees
  2. Kit-ke-hak-i, or Republican Pawnees
  3. Pit-a-hau-e-rat, or Tapage Pawnees
  4. Ski-di, or Loup Pawnees

The origin and meaning of some of these tribal designations are lost. Indeed, only the Pit-a-hau-e-rat signification is remembered, and is supposed to imply that the Tapage were the Noisy Pawnees. They were also known as the Smoky Hill Pawnees, having lived on that stream in what is now Kansas well down into historic times. In 1836 they pointed out to Mr. Dunbar the remains of their villages on the Smoky Hill. In 1719 there was a Pawnee town at the mouth of the Republican River—most probably a Tapage Pawnee town.

There were, among the Pawnees, the usual divisions of gentes, but the names of these cannot now be stated with certainty. Morgan gives the following as probable names of Pawnee gentes, but does not pretend that the list embraces all the gentes of the Pawnees as their organization originally existed:

  1. Bear
  2. Beaver
  3. Eagle
  4. Buffalo
  5. Deer
  6. Owl.


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