Native Village Youth and Education News

May 1, 2009 Issue 198
Volume 1

A tribe comes home
by
KEVIN ABOUREZK
Condensed by Native Village

Nebraska: In the 1870s, the federal government forced the Pawnee Nation to leave its homelands along the Platte River shores. When the left, the Pawnee people carried seeds from corn that had fed their people for hundreds of years.

The tribe tried to replant the seeds in their new Oklahoma homelands.

They failed.


Then, about six years ago, a Pawnee tribal member sent some of the ancient corn seeds to a friend in Nebraska to plant near the Platte River in Kearney.

The seeds grew.

They grew into cornstalks as high as the tallest Pawnee, and they grew into a friendship between the Pawnee and their newfound seed partners. That friendship will culminate this summer in a Pawnee cultural exhibition to be held June 20 at the Great Platte River Road Archway.

"It kind of started with a seed, and the seed has just grown and grown and grown," said Gene Hunt, superintendent of the Fort Kearny State Historical Park, who helped plant the seeds.

But the cultural exhibition much like a powwow with Native singers and dancers is just one way the Pawnee are being welcomed back to Nebraska.

Two years ago, noted Nebraska author Roger Welsch gave 60 acres of his land near Dannebrog to the Pawnee. The tribe plans to use the land to rebury their ancestral remains.  They also adopted Welsch into their tribe. He is now their representative on the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.

"He is Pawnee at heart, and he's an honest man and we trust him with everything we have," said Francis Morris from the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.

 Welsch said he is humbled to serve as the Pawnees' representative on the commission. "I do not and cannot speak for the Pawnee," he said. "They do that very well on their own. I am glad to do what little I can to return the enormous gifts they have given us."

The commission will host its next meeting in Kearney on June 19, the day before the Pawnee cultural celebration. The meeting location enables the Pawnee to directly participate, which Welsch described as a "wonderful kindness on the part of Nebraska's other tribal (representatives) on the commission."

It's expected that many Pawnee tribal members will return home for the cultural exhibition. The daylong celebration will include singing, dancing, storytelling and art exhibits. An exhibit at nearby Fort Kearny will celebrate the role of Pawnee scouts in the fort's history, Hunt said.

Deb Echo-Hawk, keeper of the seeds for the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, said the tribe has considered changing its name, removing "of Oklahoma" to reflect its two-state presence. She said the cultural exhibition on June 20 will be more than a show.

"We're coming back to our home up there."
 

Pawnee Info:

The Pawnee Nation is composed of four distinct bands: the Grand, Republican, Tappage and Wolf bands.

The tribe once lived along the Platte River in earth lodges, dome-shaped structures 25 to 60 feet in diameter with long entrances facing east.

The Pawnee never waged war against the U.S. government and even served as scouts for the military, fighting against other tribes.

Smallpox and cholera decimated the tribe in the early 19th Century, leaving just 600 Pawnee by 1900. The tribe numbers about 3,500 today and lives in north-central Oklahoma.

 http://www.journals tar.com/articles /2009/03/ 16/news/local/ doc49bda1efa1d08 706798328. txt

 

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