Pawnee men: late 1860s & early 1870s.
These photographs were taken at a time of great challenge and impending fundamental change for the Pawnee people. While they had lived in earth lodge villages along the Platte and Loup Rivers for centuries, pressures on their way of life were mounting. From the east, White settlement was pressuring them to relinquish lands. Resettlement of eastern tribes west of the Mississippi had swelled the population of the eastern plains, increasing pressures on hunting resources. White immigration on the Oregon Trail through the heart of the Pawnee homeland depleted wood, grass and game animals. And, like all other Native people, the Pawnee suffered from the devastation of disease epidemics.
In addition to all these problems, the Pawnee people of the 1860s were engaged in a constant and bitter war with their traditional Sioux and Cheyenne enemies. An examination of the many war exploit drawings left by Sioux and Cheyenne men depicting events from this time bear witness to the struggle. The Pawnee enemy in these drawings is usually recognizable by his roached or shaved head, simple dress and black moccasins with ankle flaps. The men in these photographs are the men or relatives of the men in the Sioux and Cheyenne drawings.
An outgrowth of all this was the distinguished service of many Pawnee men as scouts for the U.S. Army from 1864 to 1877. The most famous served in the Pawnee Battalion organized by the North brothers. In 1869 North's Pawnee scouts were heavily involved in the devastating attack on the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers at Summit Springs, an encounter in which the Cheyenne Chief Tall Bull was killed. Only a few years later in 1873 the Pawnee were dealt a severe defeat by a force of Oglala and Brule men at a place in southwestern Nebraska now known as Massacre Canyon. The Sioux attacked the Pawnee as they made their way west on their summer buffalo hunt, killing as many as 100 and halting the hunt.
All of this culminated in the ultimate decision of the Pawnee to give up their homeland in 1876 and move south to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. The men in these photographs were living all of this when the photos were taken. It is tempting to imagine their thoughts about all of this from the looks on their faces.
Photo 1 is a Pawnee man named Like a Fox, photographed probably in Jackson's Omaha studio. His clothing is typical of that worn by so many of the Pawnee men of the time. He is wearing an Army-issue coat of some kind, perhaps Artillery or Cavalry, and likely signifying his service in the campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne. His head is closely trimmed except for a scalplock at the back. He is wrapped in a wool 3-point blanket and wears plain hide flap leggings. A Remington cap and ball revolver, a popular weapon of Pawnee men of this time, is plainly evident. Last, note his moccasins. While no ankle flaps are visible, they are clearly made of dark hide in the front seam style. The lighter colored material at the bottom is a separate sole of hide common to many Pawnee moccasins when they were still wearing this traditional style.
Photo 2 is half of a stereo view of three unidentified men, one of whom is a young boy, on the left. Two of the men carry bows and the boy carries a quirt. The man on the right again displays his cap and ball revolver, which this time looks like a Colt. That man is also wrapped in a buffalo robe and wears undecorated leggings and moccasins. These moccasins and those on the man in the center appear to be too light colored to be the classic black moccasins and no center seam is evident. Two of the men have long shoulder length hair, while the boy on the left has closely cut hair with a center roach left longer. Also note his patterned fabric shirt with a neck ruffle. Similar shirts were worn by Pawnee people of both sexes during this time.
Photo 3 shows On a Horse and Male Calf, both of whom look as if they just came in from the hunt or a war party. [Jackson Catalog 593.] Male Calf (presumed to be the standing man) is wrapped in a robe and wears undecorated leggings and black moccasins. His robe is belted around his waist, along with the Army holster for his pistol. His fringed and lightly beaded shot pouch and powder horn are worn on a strap across his shoulders. On a Horse is wearing a loose fitting cloth shirt and appears to be wrapped in both a blanket and a hide robe. The cut of his moccasins is unclear, but they appear to be made of dark hide. The leggings worn by both men may be made of a light colored woven fabric.
Photo 4 is Prairie Chicken. [If the number "543" on the negative corresponds to Jackson's descriptive list of photos, this is Gives to the Poor, described by Jackson as "a soldier or policeman of the Skeedes."] His Remington pistol, shot pouch, and powder horn are shown, along with his striped, button front shirt and blanket. His hair is well displayed, cut short on the sides, roached on the top and with a long scalp lock hanging down the back. See the "Pawnee enemy" from a Cheyenne war exploit drawing (Photo 4A) by an unknown artist.
Photo 5 depicts two unidentified young men, whom we can imagine to be determined and aspiring warriors. The boy on the right wears an Army kepi with a length of ribbon attached to its top, again showing the close ties between Pawnee men and the Army during this time. Both boys are wrapped in buffalo robes painted in geometric designs. The undecorated hide leggings and moccasins of the boy on the left can be seen, along with his hair cut. He had an object in his right hand, possibly a bone whistle.
Photo 6 is Youngest Pony, who is evidently a man of some means and importance. Note the mass of ball and cone earrings in his ears, the bead and shell choker and his woven bead choker. Many Pawnee men of this time wore woven bead chokers, and those that are visible in detail seem to be square-woven (with warp and weft as on a loom) and not side-stitched. Youngest Pony has a tacked pipe tomahawk and a light colored wearing blanket. His leggings are made from saved list cloth, and are decorated with wide beaded classic Pawnee strips.
One aspect of Pawnee dress that is evident in photographs from the late 1860s and early 1870s is the relative scarcity of beadwork. Photos of Pawnee women seldom show any beadwork. Beadwork on men seems to be limited to higher status men, and then mostly to legging strips, woven garters, woven chokers and fur turban decorations.
There is a relatively voluminous literature on the Pawnee people. Most of the histories of the Plains wars of the mid nineteenth century will prominently feature accounts of the Pawnee. In addition, consider the following:
Grinnell, George B. Two Great Scouts and their Pawnee Battalion. Arthur H. Clark Co, Clevelnd (1928)
Grinnell, George B. Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk Tales. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1961)
Hiesinger, Ulrich W. Indian Lives, A Photographic record from the Civil War to Wounded Knee. Pestel, Munich and New York (1994)
Hyde, George. The Pawnee Indians. University of Denver Press, Denver (1951)
Jackson, Clarence. William H. Jackson, Picture Maker of the Old West. Bonanza Books, New York (1967)
Murie, James R. Ceremonies of the Pawnee. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1989)
Parks, Douglas, "Pawnee," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13, pt. 2. Smithsonian Institution, Washington (2001), pp. 515-547
Paul, Eli, ed. The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader 1865-1877. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1998). See: "The North Brothers and the Pawnee Scouts" pp. 73-87; "The Battle of Massacre Canyon" pp. 88-109
Waitley, Douglas. William Henry Jackson, Framing the Frontier. Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, MT (1999)
Weltfish, Gene. The Lost Universe, Pawnee Life and Culture. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln (1977)
Photos courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives