Nebraska extract from
John Reed Swanton's

The Indian Tribes of North America

You've come in the "back door"
to the deep files area of the Northern Plains Archive Project web site.
(This textual information is actually a lot more useful in its geographic context.)

Click this button if you would like to see the Nebraska text together with the tribal locations in 1640. (This will also let you see the locations of neighboring tribal groups in the surrounding area. Click on any tribe to view the information about them. In the very near future maps of the area in the 1760's and 1880's will also be available.) Set your resolution to at least 1024 by 768 for the best view.

Click this button to see just the text about Nebraska tribes.

Click this button to come in the "Front Door" of the Archive Project and make the whole experience available. By entering the "Deep Map Demo,"  zooming out and navigating to the area of interest, you can access the complete set of tribal information (not to mention making a lot of other cool stuff available). You also might want to check the books available in the Publications Department of the Archive Gift Shop, available from the Home Page.




(Nebraska) Extract from

The Indian Tribes of North America

by John R. Swanton
Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 145—1953
[726 pages—Smithsonian Institution]
(pp. 285-291)


Arapaho. The Arapaho ranged for a considerable period over the western part of this State. (See Wyoming.)

Arikara. This tribe lived in the territory now included in Nebraska with the Skidi Pawnee at some prehistoric period, and after 1823 they returned to the same tribe for 2 years. (See North Dakota.)

Cheyenne. Like the Arapaho, the Cheyenne ranged to some extent over the western territories of the State. (See South Dakota.)

Comanche. At an early day the Comanche must have lived in or near the western part of Nebraska, before moving south. (See Texas.)

Dakota. The Dakota had few settlements of any permanency in the territory of Nebraska but they were constantly riding into and across it from the north. (See South Dakota.)

Foxes. The Foxes were parties to a land cession made in 1830. (See Wisconsin.)

Iowa. When the Omaha lived about the Pipestone Quarry in Minnesota, they were accompanied by the Iowa, who afterward went with them to South Dakota and thence to Nebraska. They, however, continued southeast into the territory of the present State of Iowa (q. v.).

Kansas. They were parties to a cession of Nebraska land made in 1825. (See Kansas.)

Kiowa. The Kiowa were at one time on the western margin of Nebraska and later followed the Comanche south. (See Oklahoma.)

Missouri. After they had been driven from Missouri by the Sauk and Fox, the remnant of this tribe lived for a while in villages south of Platte River. (See Missouri.)

Omaha. Meaning "those going against the wind or current"; sometimes shortened to Maha. Also called:

Ho'-man-han, Winnebago name.
Hu-úmûi, Cheyenne name.
Oni'häo, Cheyenne name, meaning "drum beaters" (?).
Puk-tis, Pawnee name.
U'-aha, Pawnee name.

Connection.—The Omaha belonged to that section of the Siouan linguistic stock which included also the Ponca, Kansa, Osage, and Quapaw, and which was called by J. O. Dorsey (1897) Dhegiha.

Location.—Their principal home in historic times was in northeastern Nebraska, on the Missouri River. (See also Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Dakota.)

History.—According to strong and circumstantial traditions, the Omaha and others belonging to the same group formerly lived on the Ohio and Wabash Rivers. It is usually said that the Quapaw separated from the general body first, going down the Mississippi, but it is more likely that they were left behind by the others and later moved out upon the great river. The Osage remained on Osage River, and the Kansa continued on up the Missouri, but the Omaha, still including the Ponca, passed north inland as far as the Pipestone Quarry in Minnesota, and were afterward forced west by the Dakota, into what is now the State of South Dakota. There the Ponca separated from them and the Omaha settled on Bow Creek, in the present Nebraska. They continued from that time forward in the same general region, the west side of the Missouri River between the Platte and the Niobrara, but in 1855 made their last movement of consequence to the present Dakota County. In 1854 they sold all of their lands except a portion kept for a reserve, and they gave up the northern part of this in 1865 to the Winnebago. (See Wisconsin.) In 1882, through the efforts of Miss Alice C. Fletcher, they were granted lands in severalty with prospects of citizenship, and Miss Fletcher was given charge of the ensuing allotment. Citizenship has now been granted them.

Population.—Mooney (1928) estimates that there were about 2,800 Omaha in 1780. In 1802 they were reduced by smallpox to about 300. In 1804 the estimated number was 600; in 1829, 1,900; in 1843, 1,600. Schoolcraft (1851-57) gives 1,349 in 1861; Burrows, 1,200 in 1857; and the same number appears in the census returns for 1880. In 1906 the United States Indian Office returned 1,228, and the census of 1910 gave 1,105. The Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 showed an increase to 1,440. The census of 1930 gave 1,103, principally in Nebraska. The United States Indian Office reported 1,684 in 1932.

Connection in which they have become noted.—The Omaha will be remembered particularly from the fact that its name has been adopted by the City of Omaha, Nebr. It has also been given to small places in Boone County, Ark.; Stewart County, Ga.; Gallatin County, Ill.; Morris County, Tex.; Knott County, Ky.; and Dickenson County, Va.

It will be remembered furthermore as the scene of the humanitarian labors of Miss Alice C. Fletcher and the ethnological studies of Miss Fletcher and Dr. Francis La Flesche.

Oto. From Wat`ota, meaning "lechers." It often appears in a lengthened form such as Hoctatas or Octoctatas. Also called:
Che-wae-rae, own name.
Matokatági, Shawnee name.
Motútatak, Fox name.
Wacútada, Omaha and Ponca name.
Wadótata, Kansa name.
Watohtata, Dakota name.
Watútata, Osage name.

Connections.—The Oto formed, with the Iowa and Missouri, the Chiwere group of the Siouan linguistic family and were closely connected with the Winnebago.

Location.—The Oto moved many times, but their usual location in the historic period was on the lower course of the Platte or the neighboring banks of the Missouri. (See also Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.)

History.—From the maps of the Marquette expedition it would seem that at the time when they were drawn, 1673, the Oto were some distance up Des Moines River. Their name was often coupled with that of the related Iowa who lived north of them, but they always seem to have occupied a distinct area. Shortly after this time they moved over to the Missouri and by 1804 had established their town on the south side of the Platte River not far from its mouth. According to native traditions, this tribe, the Iowa, and the Missouri were anciently one people with the Winnebago, but moved southwest from them, and then separated from the Iowa at the mouth of Iowa River and from the Missouri at the mouth of Grand River. Their language proves that they were closely related to these tribes whether or not the separations occurred in the manner and at the places indicated. Their split with the Missouri is said to have been brought about by a quarrel between two chiefs arising from the seduction of the daughter of one by the son of the other, and from this circumstance the Oto are supposed to have derived their name. In 1700 they were, according to Le Sueur, on Blue Earth River near the Iowa and it is probable that they moved into the neighborhood of the Iowa or Missouri at several different times, but their usual position was clearly intermediate along a north-south line. In 1880 two Oto chiefs came to visit La Salle in Illinois and reported that they had traveled far enough west to fight with people using horses, who were evidently the Spaniards, a fact which proves their early westward range.

By treaties signed July 15, 1830, and October 15, 1836, they and the Missouri ceded all claims to land in Missouri and Iowa, and by another signed September 21, 1833, the two ceded all claims to land south of the Little Nemaha River. By a treaty signed March 15, 1854, they gave up all their lands except a strip 10 miles wide and 25 miles long on the waters of Big Blue River, but when it was found that there was no timber on this tract it was exchanged on December 9 for another tract taken from the Kansas Indians. In a treaty sighed August 15, 1876, and amended March 3, 1879, they agreed to sell 120,000 acres off the western end of their reserve. And finally, a treaty signed on March 3, 1881, provided, the consult of the tribe being obtained, for the sale of all of the remainder of their land in Kansas and Nebraska, and the selection of a new reservation. Consent to the treaty was recorded May 4 following, and the tribe removed the following year to the new reservation which was in the present Oklahoma southwest of Arkansas River on Red Rock and Black Bear Creeks, west of the present Pawnee. The first removal to Oklahoma is said to have been due to a fission in the tribe resulting in the formation of two bands, a conservative band called Coyotes and the Quakers, who were progressives. The Coyotes moved in 1880 and the Quakers joined them 2 years later.

Population.—Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1780 the Oto numbered about 900. In 1805 Lewis and Clark estimated 500 then living, but Catlin in 1833 raised this to 1,300, a figure which includes the Missouri Burrows in 1849 gives 900, and the United States Indian Office in 1843, 931. This and all later enumerations include both the Oto and the Missouri. In 1862 they numbered 708; in 1867, 511; in 1877, 457; in 1886, 334; in 1906, 390; and by the census of 1910, 332. The census of 1930, however, showed a marked increase to a total of 627, all but 13 of whom were in Oklahoma, 376 in Nobles County, 170 in Pawnee, 34 in Kay, and 17 in Osage. There were 7 in California, 1 in Kansas, and 1 in Nebraska. In 1937, 756 were reported in Oklahoma.

Connection in which they have become noted.—The name Oto has been applied to some small settlements in Woodbury County, Iowa, and in Missouri, and in the form Otoe to a county and post village in Nebraska.

Pawnee. The name is derived by some from the native word paríki, "a horn," term said to be used to designate their peculiar manner of dressing the scalp lock; but Lessor and Weltfish (1932) consider it more likely that it is from parisu, "hunter," as claimed by themselves. They were also called Padani and Panana by various tribes. Also known as:
Ahihinin, Arapaho name, meaning "wolf people."
Awahi, Caddo and Wichita name.
Awahu, Arikara name.
Awó, Tonkawa name, originally used by the Wichita.
Chahiksichahiks, meaning "men of men," applied to themselves but also to all other tribes whom they considered civilized.
Dárazhazh, Kiowa Apache name.
Harahey, Coronado documents (somewhat uncertain).
Ho-ni'-i-tani-o, Cheyenne name, meaning "little wolf people."
Kuitare-i, Comanche name, meaning "wolf people."
Paoneneheo, early Cheyenne name, meaning "the ones with projecting front teeth."
Páyin, Kansa form of the name.
Pi-ta'-da, name given to southern tribes (Grinnell, 1923).
Tse-sa do hpa ka, Hidatsa name meaning "wolf people."
Wóhesh, Wichita name.
Xaratenumanke, Mandan name.

Connections.—The Pawnee were one of the principal tribes of the Caddoan linguistic stock. The Arikara (q.v.) were an offshoot, and the Wichita were more closely related to them than were the Caddo.

Location.—On the middle course of Platte River and the Republican fork of Kansas River. (See also Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.)

Subdivisions.—The Pawnee consisted in reality of four tribes, or four known in historic times, viz: The Chaui or Grand Pawnee, the Kitkehahki or Republican Pawnee, the Pitahauerat or Tapage Pawnee, and the Skidi or Skiri Pawnee, the first three speaking the same dialect and being otherwise more closely connected with one another than with the last. The Kitkehahki embraced two divisions, the Kitkehahki proper and the Little Kitkehahki. Murie gives two others, the Black Heads and Karikisu, but Lesser and Weltfish (1932) state that the first was a society and the second the name of the women's dance or ceremony before corn planting. The Pitahauerat consisted of the Pitahauerat proper and the Kawarakis, sometimes said to he villages.

History.—Some of the Pawnee trace their origin to the southwest, some to the east, and some claim always to have lived in the country with which later history associates them. The first White men to meet any members of these tribes were the Spaniards under Coronado in 1541. French explorers heard of them again early in the eighteenth century and French traders were established among them before the middle of it. The Spaniards of New Mexico became acquainted with them at about the same time on account of the raids which they conducted in search of horses. They lay somewhat out of the trail of the first explorers from the east, and in consequence suffered less diminution in numbers through White influences than did many of their neighbors, but they were considerably reduced through wars with the surrounding tribes, particularly with the Dakota. Although some of the early traders and trappers were treated harshly by them, their relations with the United States Government were friendly from the first, and they uniformly furnished scouts for the frontier armies. By treaties negotiated in 1833, 1848, and 1857, they ceded all of their lands in Nebraska except one reservation and in 1876 this tract was also surrendered and the entire tribe given new lands in Oklahoma, where they still live. The land has been allotted to them in severalty and they are now citizens of the United States.

Population.—Mooney (1928) estimates 10,000 Pawnee in 1780. In 1702 Iberville estimated 2,000 families. In 1838 they numbered about 10,000 according to an estimate of Dunbar and Allis (1880-82), and one authority places the figure as high as 12,500. In 1849, after the cholera epidemic, they were reported at 4,500; in 1856, 4,686 were returned, but in 1861, only 3,416. In 1879, after suffering severely in consequence of the removal to Indian Territory, they had dropped to 1,440, and by 1906 they had fallen to 649. The census of 1910 returned 633, but according to the Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923, they had then increased to 773. The census of 1930 gave 730. In 1937, 959 were reported.

Connection in which they have become noted.—The Pawnee tribe is distinguished (1) for its peculiar language and culture; (2) because of its numbers and warlike prowess, its constant hostility to the Dakota, and consistent assistance to the American forces operating upon the Plains; and (3) as having given its name to a city in Oklahoma; to counties in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; to streams in Colorado and Kansas; and to places in Morgan County, Colo.; Sangamon County, Ill.; Montgomery County, Ind.; Pawnee City in Pawnee County, Nebr.; Pawnee Rock in Barton County, Kans.; Pawnee Station in Bourbon County, Kans.; and a creek and buttes in northeastern Colorado.

Ponca. Own name, meaning unknown. Also called:
Díhit, Li-hit' or Ríhit, Pawnee name
Kan'kan, Winnebago name.
Tchiáxsokush, Caddo name.

Connections.—The Ponca spoke practically the same language as the Omaha and formed with them, the Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw, the Dhegiha group of the Siouan linguistic family.

Location.—On the right bank of the Missouri at the mouth of the Niobrara. (See also Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.)

History.—The early life of the Ponca seems to have run parallel with that of the Omaha (q.v.). They are said to have separated from the latter at the mouth of White River, S. Dak., and to have moved west into the Black Hills but to have rejoined the Omaha a little later. These two tribes and the Iowa then descended the Missouri together as far as the mouth of the Niobrara, where the Ponca remained while the Omaha established themselves below on Bow Creek. They remained in approximately the same situation until 1877 when the larger part of them were forcibly removed to Indian Territory. This action was the occasion for a special investigation, as a result of which about three-quarters continued in the Territory while the remainder preferred to remain in their old country. Their lands have now been allotted to them in severalty.

Population.—Mooney (1928) gives 800, as the probable size of the Ponca tribe in 1780. In 1804 Lewis and Clark estimate only 200 but they had been greatly reduced just before by smallpox. In 1829 they had increased to 600 and in 1842 to about 800. In 1871 they numbered 747. In 1906 the Ponca in Oklahoma numbered 570 and those in Nebraska 263; total, 833. The census of 1910 gave 875 in all, including 619 in Oklahoma and 193 in Kansas. The Report of the United States Indian Office for 1923 was 1,381, evidently including other tribes. The census of 1930 returned 939. In 1937 the United States Indian Office gave 825 in Oklahoma and 397 in Nebraska.

Connection in which they have become noted.—The name Ponca is preserved by a river in South Dakota, Ponca City in Kay County, Okla., and places in Newton County, Ark., and Dixon County, Nebr. Sauk. Like the Foxes, they were parties to the land cession of 1830 involving territories in this State. (See Wisconsin.)

Winnebago. Part of the Winnebago settled close to the Omaha after they had been driven from Minnesota following the Dakota outbreak of 1862. A reservation was later assigned them there and in the course of time they were allotted land in severalty upon it. (See Wisconsin.)