Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Pawnee are Native Americans who originally lived in what is now central Nebraska and central Kansas in the basins of the Platte and Republican rivers. The Pawnee spoke a Caddoan language. Prior to 1833 they lived in large villages along the Platte River where they farmed and hunted mostly bison. Nineteenth century Pawnee society included a series of class-like hierarchical divisions. Resettlement in Indian Territory made traditional subsistence methods impossible. They now live on a reservation in north-central Oklahoma.


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North America --Plains and Plateau


United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

The Pawnee file consists of eighteen English language documents dealing primarily with traditional Pawnee ethnography for the period of approximately 1850 to the 1920s. There is a slight focus in the file on materials dealing with the Skidi (Skiri) band of Pawnee. Probably the most comprehensive ethnographic information on the Pawnee as a whole is found in Weltfish (1965, no. 14), further supplemented with data from Smith (1852, no. 10), Grinnell (1889, no. 20), and the oral traditions described in Blaine (1990, no. 19). Major topics discussed in this file relate to culture history, ceremonialism, and religious beliefs. There is relatively little information on kinship. The single best reference in this file on Pawnee culture history is found in Hyde (1974, no. 17). This document is further supplemented with data from Wedel (1936, no. ll), Weltfish (1965, no. 14), and Lesser (1933, no. 2). Ceremonialism and religious beliefs are well covered in Fletcher (1940, no. 1), Lesser (1933, no. 2), Murie (1914, no. 4), Linton (1923, no. 9), Murie (1989, no. 15), and Blaine (1983, no. 23). Other documents deal with more specific ethnographic topics such as music and songs in Densmore (1929, no. 3); social organization in Dorsey and Murie (1940, no. 5), and Murie (1914, no. 4); literature in the form of hero stories and folktales in Grinnell (1961, 1889, nos. 12 & 20); and ethnoastronomy in Chamberlain (1992, 1982, nos. 18 & 21).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is based on the article "Pawnee" by Gerald F. Reid in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1, 1991. Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson, eds. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall & Co. Population figures were updated and additional data were added to the section entitled "Religious Practitioners" by John Beierle in 1997. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by John Beierle in February, 1997.

Overview by

John Beierle

criers -- categories 203, 624

errand men -- category 624

KURAHUS -- priests -- category 793

Skidi (Skiri) historical federations -- category 631

soldiers -- enforcers and promoters of the reservation agency's "civilization" programs -- category 625

star charts -- category 821

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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