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Pawnee Sacred Bundle

Sacred bundleA sacred bundle contained items used for ritual and ceremony and were passed down through the female line from generation to generation. Carefully guarded by a female member of an American Indian family, sacred bundles could only be used by men. A bundle was hung along the west wall of a home or above the altar in the sacred area. A member of the Pawnee Nation donated a sacred bundle to the Kansas Historical Society so that it could be preserved at Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site.

That bundle was x-rayed to identify its contents. Carefully wrapped in bison hide, the bundle contains ceremonial objects tied on the outside. These items include a long smoking pipe, arrow fragments, a meat fork tipped with a raccoon bone, and small American flags. The x-ray revealed that the inside contains stuffed bird bundles, hawk bells, counting sticks, and glass beads sewn on a leather strip.

Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic SiteThe bundle's history is connected with a Sioux and Pawnee battle that occurred near the Loup River in central Nebraska in August 1873. About 300 Pawnee warriors and 400 women were on a buffalo hunt in an area that the Sioux considered its own hunting grounds. Sadie was a young Pawnee girl with the hunting party. When the Sioux attacked, her father tied her to a horse, slipped a treasured peace medal around her neck, and bound the sacred bundle to her back, advising her to take care of the bundle.

When Sadie made her way back to her village she learned that her parents had been killed. Heeding her father's admonition, Sadie carefully guarded the bundle and later passed it down to her own daughter. Her father was not able to pass along the ritual use of the bundle and it could not be opened. It became a symbol of the family's spiritual history.

Sadie's daughter Dolly kept the bundle until her death in 1971. The Pawnees had been living in Oklahoma (Indian Territory) for nearly 100 years. During a trip to the old Pawnee homeland in Nebraska, Dolly visited Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site near Republic. She decided to present the bundle to the Kansas Historical Society to be kept at the site. The sacred bundle hangs today above the remains of the lodge's altar, much as it would have at its original site on the Loup River in Nebraska.

Entry: Pawnee Sacred Bundle

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2009

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.