Native American History

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Tthe history of Southeast Nebraska includes not only the settlers who came to the area to build new lives but the Native Americans who had established their homes and hunting grounds here. Many of the counties and communities continue to carry Native American names. The four primary tribes that populated Southeast Nebraska included the Pawnee, Ponca, Oto, and Kansa.

Cass County

The Native American groups associate with Cass County include the Oto and Missouria. However, only a small number of them lived in Cass County.

Fillmore County
Gage County

Odell
Big Indian NRD Recreation Area ~ Six miles east of town, the area has 250 acres for boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, and swimming. An archery range, shelter and playground equipment are onsite. (402) 228-3402

Jefferson County
Johnson County

The Native American tribe in Johnson County was the Oto-Missouria.

Nemaha

In 1830, the Treaty of Pairie du Chien set aside a tract of land for the mixed-race descendants with lineage from the Oto, Iowa, Omaha, Yankton, and Santee Sioux tribes. Know as the Nemaha Half-Breed Tract, the reservation was bordered by the Missouri river to the east, the Little Nemaha River to the north, and the Great Nemaha River to the south. A sign now marks the area, which was disbanded as a legal entity in 1861.

Otoe County

The name of Otoe County comes from the Oto Indians who initially lived along the Missouri River in the area. Between 1817 and 1841, the Oto resided around the mouth of the Platte River. The Missouria joined the Oto there. The combined tribe ceded most of their lands in Nebraska south of the Platte River to the U.S. government by treaty in 1854, retaining the Oto Reservation along the Big Blue River. In the 1870s, the Oto-Missouria tribe split into the Coyote and Quaker bands. By 1880, the few tribe members remaining on the Oto Reservation sold the land and moved to Oklahoma.

Pawnee County

Pawnee County was named for the Native American tribe that inhabited the area. More than 10,000 members of the Pawnee Nation lived near the North Platte River in the early 19th century. Smallpox and cholera had decreased that number to about 600 by the 1840s. The remaining members of the Pawnee Nation were relocated to Pawnee, Oklahoma in 1875.

Richardson County

The original Native American groups in Richardson County were the Pawnee and the Oto. According to the book “History of Richardson County Nebraska:  Its People, Industries, and Institutions” by Lewis C. Edwards, the Sac & Fox and the Iowa arrived later, followed by the Winnebago and Sioux.

Saline County

There appear to have been no major villages associated with any historic period tribes in Saline County. However, the county would likely have been familiar in terms of hunting camps to the Oto-Missouria, Iowa, Pawnee, and Kansa. Most other sites in the county are prehistoric.

Sarpy County
Thayer County

Some traces of pre-historic Native American groups have been found in the county near the stream beds of the Little Blue River and the Big Sandy, Spring, and Rose Creeks. Thayer County’s location places it in the path of a number of migratory Native American tribes during its historical period, including the Oto, Pawnee, Kansa, and Omaha. The land that is now the location of Thayer County, Nebraska, was ceded to the government of the United States by the Kansa Indians on June 3, 1825. In 1862 a Pawnee band engaged the Sioux in the western part of Thayer County. With the American Civil War in progress, during 1864 and 1865 the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes made a number of attacks against white settlers along the Overland Route and Oregon Trail area that ran through the county, with the Hackney Ranch/Stage Station burned in 1865. After the Civil War, Native American visits to the Thayer County area were recorded in county newspapers, including an article dated March 6, 1884, which stated that “two lodges of Omaha Indians camped on Spring Creek and trapping was successful on the Little Blue River. The group secured 48 beaver skins which were sold to a gentleman from Columbus, Nebraska, for &151.00.”