Ceremonies of the Pawnee
"Here it is—Murie as it should have been, beautifully and expertly edited, embellished with forgotten pictures, and ready for use and study—a permanent gift to the world of anthropology, the Caddoans, and the Plains."—Alexander Lesser. "These detailed descriptions of the major Pawnee Indian ceremonies are unique in Plains Indian literature."—John C. Ewers.
Of all the American Indian tribes of the Plains, the Pawnee and the closely related Arikara developed their religious philosophy and ceremonialism to its fullest; in fact, they may have developed it more highly than any other group north of Mexico. Ceremonies of the Pawnee is the first and only systematic, comprehensive description of that rich and complex religious life. Written under the direction of the anthropologist Clark Wissler between 1914 and 1920, it is the culmination of the ethnographic studies of James R. Murie, himself a Pawnee, who witnessed and participated in revivals of the ceremonialism just before it finally died out.
Part I presents the annual ritualistic cycle of the Skiri band, giving detailed accounts of the major ceremonies and describing the role of priests, doctors, and bundles in Pawnee religion. Part II is devoted to three major doctors’ ceremonies—the White Beaver Ceremony, the Bear Dance, and the Buffalo Dance—one of the three groups known collectively as the South Bands. The descriptions include, in both the original Pawnee and an English translation, several hundred songs as well as a number of ceremonial chants and speeches that are virtually unique in the literature on American Indian religion and provide invaluable material for linguistic study. Equally valuable is the collection of vision stories that underlie the songs. As a body they provide a new perspective on the vision and its cultural patterning, and allow for a deeper understanding of the cultural and psychological bases of Pawnee religion.
Dr. Douglas R. Parks of the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University has provided an overview of Pawnee social organization and religion, along with explanatory notes and a biography of Murie.