The Ancient Pawnee Flood Story as told to Buffalo Bill Cody by the Pawnee Chief of Scouts

The Ancient Pawnee Flood Story as told to Buffalo Bill Cody by the Pawnee Chief of Scouts

I was reading an old auto-biography of Buffalo Bill written by the plainsman himself and in it he relates their story of the great flood and a fabled race of giants, as given to him by the Pawnees he scouted with during the Indian Wars on the plains. The autobiography itself is mind-boggling as Cody tells of watching his father, a free-soiler and abolitionist, taken by a mob of pro-slavers and stabbed in the back in frontier Kansas. He describes how he and his mother, who he depicted as having a strong Christian character, fought to try and keep his father alive, alone out on the prairie, penniless and surrounded by bloodthirsty and ruthless gangs of anti-abolitionists.

Cody took up his career out on the plains at a young age (12) and engaged in hundreds of sharp gun fights and perilous rides, both with the Indians making their last desperate stand to save their way of life and against various and numerous desperados of the white variety. The Western plains were not a safe place in the late 19th century.

But to the flood story, taught to Cody by the chief Pawnee scout who was fluent in English and Pawnee;

Quoted directly from the source as the book is now public Domain

“While we were in the hills scouting the Niobrara country, the Pawnees brought in some very large bones, one of which the surgeon of the expedition (it was a college funded expedition for fossils) said was the thigh bone of a human being. The Indians said the bones were those of a race of people who long ago had lived in that country…These giants, they said, denied the existence of the Great Spirit. When they heard thunder or lightening they laughed and declared themselves to be greater than either.

This so displeased the Great Spirit that he caused a deluge. The water rose higher and higher till it drove these proud giants from the low lands to the hills and thence to the mountains. At last even the mountain tops were submerged and the mammoth men were drowned…This story has been handed down among the Pawnees for generations.”

All the American tribes had a flood story and they often varied greatly in the details, but never in the main point. Some matched the Bible story very closely others less so, but this if the first time I had ever read the Pawnee account. And right from the mouth of Buffalo Bill Cody.  Cody had the highest respect for the Pawnee and said they were the best scouts he ever served with.

Cody ends the book with a plea to the government and the people of America to be just and faithful in their dealing with the Native American people. Once again, like with Davey Crockett and Dan’l Boone, we find an old Indian fighter that had a love and deep respect for the people he had fought for the better part of fifty years.

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About notmanynoble

woodcutter from Washington State
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