When the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma returns to Kearney for
a powwow in June, its members will be getting building lessons from
their long lost cousins, the Arikara of North Dakota.
are rapidly coming together to build an authentic earth lodge near
the Great Platte River Road Archway.
ago, some American Indian tribes of Nebraska occupied earth lodges
built of saplings, earth and sod stacked over frames of heavy timbers.
lodges were a part of Pawnee life along the North Loup and Platte
rivers of south-central Nebraska, but after their forced exit in
1875, the Pawnees lost their knowledge of earth lodge construction.
the lodges remain at the center of Arikara life, and so tribal members
are looking forward to teaching their brothers from Oklahoma a time-lost
are no nails. It's cool in the summer and warm in the winter. You
use the materials around you," is how Jasper "Jazz" Young Bear describes
an earth lodge.
Bear will be among a delegation of Arikaras and others from the
Fort Berthold Reservation coming on Monday to meet with archway
officials and to assess whether materials for the lodge can be collected
in the Kearney area.
one time a Pawnee band, the Arikara split off from the tribe 300
to 500 years ago. Today, the Arikara share the Fort Berthold Reservation
in North Dakota with the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes. Together, the
tribes are the MHA Nation, and dotting their land are oil wells
and earth lodges.
entire reservation, everywhere you go, you see the earth lodges,"
said Gary Roubicek, the archway's executive director.
visited the Arikaras in February to lay plans for the June 18-19
in North Dakota, he noted the Arikara use the lodges as community
gathering sites. One has a 90-foot diameter. However, while it's
rare that Arikaras inhabit earth lodges, they employ humbler versions
as sheds and chicken coops, Roubicek said.
June 18-19 powwow was originally conceived as a time for the Pawnee
and Arikara to reunite, but when the topic of earth lodges came
up, members of both tribes became excited.
they don't have earth lodges on their Oklahoma reservation, the
Pawnee take pride in an exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum that features
a Pawnee lodge.
Spotted Bear, who will be among the North Dakota delegation that
visits Kearney Monday, said the project wouldn't be the first time
building a lodge has brought tribes together.
said last summer the Lower Brule Tribe of South Dakota invited his
friends and him to build a lodge along the Missouri River. Spotted
Bear said several Pawnees heard about the project and came to see
said there was a gathering in Kearney, and there were 12,000 people
there," Spotted Bear said. "We heard from them about the powwow."
of the structure near Kearney would begin soon after this summer's
archway had long-range plans to build a $400,000 earth lodge education
center with modern features and adjacent restrooms. The archway
had secured a pledge from the Kearney Area Visitors Bureau, a state
economic development grant and a private donation totaling more
than $130,000, but lacked other commitments, and so it was indefinite
when the lodge might be built.
Arikara and Pawnee tribes' interest has changed everything, Roubicek
said. Costs can be reduced significantly, especially if cottonwood
and cedar trees can be harvested in the Kearney area.
the 60-foot diameter structure, builders will need 350 cedar trees
and 150 cottonwoods, said Ronnie O'Brien, the archway's education
director and powwow coordinator.
week, O'Brien and Roger Jasnoch of the Kearney Area Visitors Bureau
traveled to North Dakota and learned if the lodge is to be built
in June, trees must be felled soon so they can cure before construction.
had been searching for grants and donations for the $400,000 lodge,
but the outlook was that construction wouldn't occur for at least
with both tribes interested in building this summer, progress has
accelerated since she returned from North Dakota.
a week's time, we've made a huge amount of progress. The two tribes
definitely want this to happen," O'Brien said.
Bear said he views the Kearney lodge as a chance to bond spiritually
with his Pawnee brothers.
going to be a collaboration between young men from Fort Berthold
and from the Pawnee. As we build the lodge, we'll share that with