In the 18th century the Pawnee mainly lived along the Republican, Loup and Platte rivers in Nebraska. They were mainly farmers and raised crops of corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. The Pawnees had a special way of preparing the scalp lock by dressing it with buffalo fat until it stood erect and curved backward like a horn. The name Pawnee comes from the word pariki (horn).
The Pawnees were skilled at stealing horses from other Native American tribes. They used these horses on the south-west plains hunting buffalo. This brought them into conflict with other tribes in the area such as the Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, Crow, Sioux, Shoshoni, and the Ute.
It is estimated that at the beginning of the 19th century there were over 10,000 members of the Pawnee tribe. The arrival of European settlers created serious problems for the Pawnee. In 1831 a smallpox epidemic killed nearly half the tribe. They also suffered badly from a cholera outbreak in 1849.
The Pawnee never went on the warpath against the settlers and were willing to form alliances with the U. S. army. In 1864 Major General Samuel R. Curtis arranged for Frank North to organize a company of Pawnee scouts to help the army during the Indian Wars.
In 1865 North's scouts accompanied Brigadier General Patrick Connor on the North Plains expedition from Julesburg to the Tongue River. On 23rd August the Pawnees fought against a Sioux and Cheyenne war party and killed 34 warriors. Later that month the scouts directed Connor and his men to an Arapatho village and was able to capture 750 horses and mules.
In March 1867 General Christopher Auger commissioned Frank North to enlist 200 Pawnee scouts. Major North was given the task of using these men to protect workers building the Union Pacific Railroad. They did this successfully and were able to defeat a Cheyenne war party that had derailed a train at Plum Creek.
Pawnee chiefs signed a series of treaties but their loyalty was not rewarded and they were eventually forced to surrender their homeland for a reservation along the Loup River. In 1876 they sold this land and moved to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
By 1900 the Pawnee population had fallen to around 600 people. This has now increased to about 2,500.