Travel: Retracing an 1872 journey to Pawnee Nation in Nebraska

"One of the most adrenaline-fueled vacations in American history took place in August 1872, when a young New Yorker named George Bird Grinnell boarded a train at Grand Central Depot for the era’s hot new travel destination — Nebraska.

In order to experience firsthand the most romantic image of the Western frontier, he intended to join the Pawnee Nation of Plains Indians on their summer buffalo hunt through the prairies.

While the Pawnee have been portrayed as Mad Max-style villains in Hollywood movies like “Dances With Wolves” and “Little Big Man,” they were consistently allied with the United States, and when North arrived with his group, he was greeted as an old friend.

For the next week, the travelers took part in rituals unchanged since the Plains Indians had first acquired horses, around 1700, joining Pawnee warriors as they attacked enormous buffalo herds in the traditional style, dining afterward on roasted buffalo tongue and liver. They observed ancient religious ceremonies. And for a dramatic finale on their way back to Plum Creek, they were chased by the Pawnees’ enemies, the Cheyenne."

Get the Story:
Chasing a Prairie Tale (The New York Times 6/24)

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