by Samuel Osborne, Pawnee
This Pawnee oral tradition appeared in The Indian Leader, volume XVIII, number 33, Haskell Institute, Lawrence, Kansas, May 1915, p. 12-13. Sam Osborne was a Skidi, born in 1899, a son of Billy Osborne (born about 1833, died 1927) and Minnie Osborne (born about 1865, died 1904). The Skidi oral tradition Sam records here concerns a Skidi man known as Pahukatawa, who was killed by the Sioux sometime before circa 1835 and became a reverenced spiritual figure among the Skidi and then among the Arikara. Writings about Pahukatawa (also Pahokatawa) abound in 20th century publications on the Pawnees. Items associated with him were retired by the Lone Chief family in Oklahoma. A dance associated with him, described in a 1914 publication by James R. Murie (Pawnee Societies 1914:616-623), was held among the Skidi until 1948. The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago holds a Skidi sacred bundle that belonged to another man of the same name, a Skidi who was alive during the 1860s and also held the name Pahukatawa.
Powhohatawa was a Pawnee Indian who was a great man for war. One morning he and three other Indians went out after their horses. They came to a large woods and a little way off was a high hill. Powhohatawa was in the lead of the little company when they met a band of Indians called Sioux and they chased this man. He was on foot and the Sioux were on horseback, so they caught him, killed him, cut him up, and scattered his bones.
When his mother heard this she cried and cried for about three or four days till she went blind. But one night as she was lying in her Powhohatawa came to her and told her not to worry over his death because he was alive again, but he would not stay with the tribe. He said that all the animals in the woods had gathered up all of his bones and put them together, but the one thing they did not find was his brains; the crows had eaten them.
The next night he came down to the tent and told his mother to get up and go to the northwest of the tent. There she would find a washpan with some water in it. He told her to put her face into the water and she would not be blind any more. She got up and went to where he said to go and did just as he said. When she drew her head up she could see. The next morning all the Indians wondered how it came that she was not blind, but she did not tell anybody but her oldest son.
The following winter was cold and the Indians did not have any more meat. Some of them were starving. One night Powhohatawa came down to his mother’s tent and gave her some meat. Again the next morning the Indians wondered where she got this meat, but she would not tell anybody. This went one for a long time, till finally Powhohatawa told his mother to tell the tribe to fix a place where the chiefs could meet, so the next day the Indians built a large tent. That night all the chiefs gathered there to talk with Powhohatawa. He told them not to fix up any fire, if they did he would not come down. That night he came down to talk to the Indians. He told them this: He was killed by the Sioux. He said when they were about to have war to pray and he would help them.
Finally there came a time when they were about to have war. Powhohatawa came down one night before the battle started and told them that they were going to go on the battle field. He told all the Indians for each one to tell him what to do to each of his enemies. So they told him. He told them he would send a heavy rain cloud and a hard wind. If the wind turned that meant war. After the wind he would appear on the hill and would turn two different ways. The next day it happened just as he had said. The Indians knew what it meant. They went out into the battle field. The things that each one told this man happened, so the Pawnees drove the Sioux away and won the victory. After that every time they were going to have war Powhohatawa would come down and tell the Indians to get ready for war.
Powhohatawa used to come down to visit his brother at night. He told his brother not to get tired if he cane every night. His brother promised him that he would not. But Powhohatawa knew that the brother would get tired of it.
Years and years went by, but Powhohatawa still came to his brother’s tent at night. But one night the brother got tired being kept awake nearly all night so he slept in another tent, and when Powhohatawa came he did not find him. He told one of the Indians to go and waken his brother. The Indian did, but brought back a message that the brother was sleepy and wanted to sleep. Powhohatawa sent the man back three times and the brother said he was not going to get up. Powhohatawa then said “Let him sleep all he wants to; I am going far away from here and I will not come back any more.” His last words were to tell the tribe not to forget him and gave them a song, something about him. He told them to sing that song very often. After he went away all the Indians were mad at his brother and sorry that Powhohatawa had left them, never to return.
This is a true story.