The site of the present-day Pawnee Indian Museum near Republic, Kansas, was accepted by the state in 1901, making it the oldest State Historic Site. The site was dedicated and opened to the public that same year. Thousands came to witness the ceremony and to see a granite monument—to an event that never happened in Kansas.
The obelisk still stands proudly outside the museum, proclaiming to all visitors:
Erected by the
State of Kansas
to mark the site of the
where Lieut Zebulon M Pike
caused the Spanish flag to
be lowered and the flag of
the United States to be raised
September 29, 1806
This event was heralded as the first raising of the American flag west of the Mississippi. However, later historical research revealed that Pike’s American flag was actually raised about 40 miles up the Republican River in present-day Nebraska.
Fortunately, the site had value for something other than its supposed connection with Zebulon Pike. The Pawnee village in Nebraska where Pike had raised the American flag was occupied by a group of Indians that had moved there not too many years before. Their former home was the site of the erroneous granite monument.
During the late 1700s, and possibly again in the 1820s, the Republican band of the Pawnee tribe occupied a village of earth lodges on the historic site. They abandoned the village around 1830, and it later burned down.
Some preliminary excavations of the village were carried out in the 1940s, but the real work of examining the remains did not begin until 1965. Depressions from 22 earth lodges were found, and eight of these were excavated. One of the largest was enclosed by the Pawnee Indian Museum in 1967.
What You’ll See
The creators of the Pawnee Indian Museum planned a rare opportunity for visitors. Not only is the round building located over the top of a former earth lodge, but the artifacts discovered in that lodge have been left precisely where they were found by archaeologists. Holes mark the location of the poles that supported the lodge. Tools dot the floor. Even the storage pit is open to view. It’s not difficult for the visitor to believe that the Pawnee were really there, and not too long ago, either.
Other artifacts and interpretive aids were placed inside the museum to enrich the experience:
- Audio recordings spoken in Pawnee.
- Paintings of Pawnee people.
- Two authentic sacred bundles.
Outside, a brief nature trail takes visitors around the village.
- Take U.S. Highway 36 west out of Belleville for about 11 1/2 miles.
- Turn right on Kansas Highway 266 and continue for about 7 1/2 miles.
- Continue straight at the bend in the road to enter the parking lot.
Pawnee Indian Museum
More information to help you plan your trip.