No assessment of the Plains Indians can be complete without some account of the Pawnees. They ranged from Nebraska to Mexico and, when not fighting among themselves, fought with almost every other Plains tribe at one time or another.
Regarded as "aliens" by many other tribes, the Pawnees were distinctively different from most of their friends and enemies.
George Hyde spent more than thirty years collecting materials for his history of the Pawnees. The story is both a rewarding and a painful one.
The Pawnee culture was rich in social and religious development. But the Pawnees' highly developed political and religious organization was not a source of power in war, and their permanent villages and high standard of living made them inviting and 'fixed targets' for their enemies.
They fought and sometimes defeated larger tribes, even the Cheyennes and Sioux, and in one important battle sent an attacking party of Cheyennes home in humiliation after seizing the Cheyennes' sacred arrows.
While many Pawnee heroes died fighting off enemy attacks on Loup Fork, still more died of smallpox, of neglect at the hands of the government, and of errors in the policies of Quaker agents.
In many ways The Pawnee Indians is the best synthesis Hyde ever wrote. It looks far back into tribal history, assessing Pawnee oral history against anthropological evidence and examining military patterns and cultural characteristics.
Hyde tells the story of the Pawnees objectively, reinforcing it with firsthand accounts gleaned from many sources, both Indian and white.