Pawnee Suffer in a Blizzard

Nebraska Pawnee at the entrance to their typical dwelling called an earthlodge. NSHS RG2065-1-12

Nebraska Pawnee at the entrance to their typical dwelling called an earthlodge. NSHS RG2065-1-12

Reports of the suffering of white settlers in winter snowstorms abound in the columns of early Nebraska newspapers. Less common are accounts of the experiences of Native Americans, who endured the same blizzards with fewer resources. One such account was published in the Fremont Tribune on January 27, 1870, following a storm that struck the area on January 16.  

The Tribune reported that a war party of about twenty Pawnee was returning from a raid on the Sioux to their homes on the south side of the Platte River nearly opposite Lone Tree Station. The party had almost reached its destination when overtaken by the storm, which began while they were still in camp, but believing they would be able to reach their villages, the Pawnee started home.   

“On they traveled in spite of cold and snow, sometimes walking to keep warm, jumping about, etc., but all to no purpose, the cold was too much for either man or beast, and the horses began to give out as well as the men. Finding it useless to attempt further progress, the horses were turned loose to die and the men betook themselves to a snow bank,” where they awaited death.  

Learn the fate of the beleaguered Pawnee and read about two famous blizzards in Nebraska history, in 1873 and in 1888, in Timeline columns on the Nebraska State Historical Society website. Harl A. Dalstrom’s full-text article on the blizzard of 1948-49 from the Fall/Winter 2002 issue of Nebraska History is also on the NSHS website. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications

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