Pawnee - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Nineteenth-century Pawnee society included a series of classlike hierarchical divisions. Highest in rank were chiefs, followed by warriors, priests, and medicine men. Next in rank were common people without power or Influence, and below them were semioutcastes, persons who had violated tribal laws and lived on the outskirts of the Villages. There was also a category of captured non-Pawnee slaves. Men's societies concerned with warfare and hunting were a prominent feature of Pawnee society. In addition, there were eight medicine men's societies and numerous private organizations that functioned for the public good in times of need.

Political Organization. The Pawnee were divided into four main groups or bands: (1) the Skidi, or Wolf, the largest band, (2) the Chaui, or Grand, (3) Kitkehahki, or Republican, and (4) the Pitahauerat, or Tappage. The Chaui were generally recognized as the leading band; however, the nature of the relationship of the four groups is not clear. Aboriginally the four bands may have been independent of one another, with greater political unity developing in response to the pressures of acculturation. As exhibited by the Skidi Pawnee in the early nineteenth century, band political Structure consisted of federated villages held together by a governing council of chiefs and common participation in a Ceremonial cycle. Within the band, authority resided with four chiefs, the position of which was inherited matrilineally. Each band consisted of one or more villages. But with the pressures of acculturation and European contact there was a progressive diminution of the number of villages occupied, and in later history two or more bands frequently dwelt together in the same village. Each component village had a chief whose responsibilities included the allotting of village lands to Individual users. The position of village chief was inherited, generally by the eldest son, but subject to the approval of a Council of chiefs and other leading men.

Social Control. The Pawnee considered violence within the village a serious matter and generally made every attempt to avoid it or stop it when it occurred. For the most part, public opinion acted as the mechanism of social control, but to ensure order each village had a small police society whose head was an old warrior selected by the village chief. On the communal bison hunts held in the late summer and autumn of each year, a special society of military police or soldiers was selected to prevent individual hunters from leaving the camp and disturbing the bison herds.

Conflict. In prehistoric and early historic times interband disputes and violence were not uncommon, particularly Between the Skidi and Grand Pawnee.

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