Pawnee Indians, an Indian tribe of the Caddoan language family, related to the Arikara and the Wichita. In the 18th century, they were a large and powerful tribe inhabiting parts of what are now Nebraska and Kansas. The Pawnees were divided into four principal subtribes: the Chaui, Kitkehahki, Pitahauerat, and Skidi. The Skidi were known for their annual sacrifice of a captive girl to the morning star, the only human sacrifice rite among Plains Indians.
The Pawnees came to the Plains from the southeast before the time of European exploration. Their numbers were estimated at about 10,000 in the 18th century. They lived in villages and were farmers and hunters. They also engaged in warfare, particularly against the Osage and the Kansas. The Pawnees, however, had good relations with white settlers, and many served as Army scouts. In the early 19th century, more than half of the Pawnees died in smallpox and cholera epidemics. The survivors were placed on a reservation in Nebraska in 1859. In 1876 they were moved to a reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Part of this land was later allotted to tribal members and part was opened to homesteaders.
There are currently about 2,600 Pawnees, many of whom live in Pawnee and Payne counties in Oklahoma.