The Pawnee Mythology

The Pawnee Mythology

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The Pawnee Mythology

The Pawnee Mythology

Read FREE!

Synopsis

The Pawnee Mythology, originally published in 1906, preserves 148 tales of the Pawnee Indians, who farmed and hunted and lived in earth-covered lodges along the Platte River in Nebraska. The stories, collected from surviving members of four bands - Skidi, Pitahauirat, Kitkehahki, and Chaui - were generally told during intermissions of sacred ceremonies. Many were accompanied by music. George A. Dorsey recorded these Pawnee myths early in the twentieth century after the tribe's traumatic removal from their ancestral homeland to Oklahoma. He included stories of instruction concerning supernatural beings, the importance of revering such gifts as the buffalo and corn, and the results of violating nature. Hero tales, forming another group, usually centered on a poor boy who overcame all odds to benefit the tribe. Other tales invited good fortune, recognized wonderful beings like the witch women and spider women, and explained the origin of medicine powers. Coyote tales were meant to amuse while teaching ethics.

Excerpt

The present memoir comprises one hundred and forty-eight tales, of which forty-five were obtained from nineteen Skidi informants, seventeen from five Pitahauirat informants, seventy-three from ten Kitkehahki informants, and thirteen from five Chaui informants. Concerning this representation it seems advisable to say a word. First, it should be noted that the Skidi tales here presented are to be regarded as supplementary to those already printed in my Traditions of the Skidi Pawnee. In the introduction to that volume a statement was made that tales which contained songs would be reserved for publication in a later volume. The forty-five Skidi tales here presented contain all those which were omitted in the memoir just referred to, and include also several others which have been obtained during the last two years. Next, it should be remembered that the Skidi to-day exceed in population the other three bands combined. In the Chaui band there are but two men living who may be regarded as full-blooded Chaui. Others, however, have married Chaui women, have become possessors of Chaui traditions and their bundles brought to them by their wives, and are generally considered as Chaui to-day. The Pitahauirat band is also small in numbers. The Kitkehahki is relatively more numerous than the two bands just mentioned, but the great number of tales from this band is rather due to the fact that thirty-four of the tales were obtained from a single informant.

It appears that from the four bands thirty-nine informants are represented. These collectively represent practically the entire story-telling population of the Pawnee, for the tribe to-day numbers about five hundred, whereas at the time of the removal of the Pawnee from Nebraska to Oklahoma, in 1874, they numbered over two thousand. This great decimation of their ranks, together with the almost total abandonment of their religious observances, has undoubtedly greatly influenced the volume of mythology in the tribe; especially is this known to be the case among the Skidi, where certain villages are no longer represented and nothing is known of the ritual accompanying the sacred bundle which belonged to that village and consequently nothing of the tales of its origin. Again, it may be pointed out that in the representations of the Pitahauirat and Chaui of to-day it is not at all likely that anything approaching a fair representation of their mythology may be obtained. It seems, however, that the inequality in the number of tales representing the bands . . .

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