Pawnee - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities . In the historic period until the latter part of the nineteenth century the Pawnee subsistence pattern consisted of farming and hunting, with a minimal amount of gathering. The principal crops were maize, beans, squash, and pumpkins; the principal game animal was the bison. Horses acquired from the Spanish, starting in the late seventeenth century, stimulated the Development of a more nomadic, hunting way of life, but this never supplanted the farming basis of life to the degree that it did among other Plains Indian groups. At about the same time European firearms were acquired from the French, but these had less economic impact; even into the nineteenth century the bow and arrow was the weapon of choice among bison hunters. Throughout the nineteenth century the Pawnee were under constant pressure by the U.S. government to give up hunting and adopt European methods of farming. The Pawnee resisted this pressure for a time until White migration, dwindling bison herds, increased population pressure on food resources, and finally resettlement in Indian Territory made the traditional hunting and farming way of life impossible.

Industrial Arts, Work in skins, particularly bison skins, was highly developed and provided the Pawnee with tents, ropes, rawhide, containers, blankets, robes, clothing, and footwear. Other by-products of the bison were used for bows, bowstring, thread, hammers, scrapers, awls, and fuel. Pottery making was not a highly developed skill, but did exist and persisted into the nineteenth century when clay pots were replaced by copper and iron vessels obtained from European-Americans.

Trade. Virtually self-sufficient in aboriginal times, Pawnee trade with neighboring groups was limited. After contact they traded with Whites for horses, firearms and ammunition, steel knives, axes, hoes, brass kettles, and whiskey.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, women tended the fields and men were responsible for hunting, but this division of labor broke down during the second half of the nineteenth century with the decline of bison hunting and the gradual acceptance of plow agriculture as the basis of subsistence.

Land Tenure. Each village traditionally possessed its own fields, the use of which was allotted to individuals by the Village chief. Upon the individual's death the lands reverted to the village and were re-allotted.

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