The area between the Niobrara and Platte Rivers provided an oasis source of shelter and water for thousands of years to the First Nations Pawnee who lived on the south bank of the Platte River, their main village was located a few miles east of where Fremont is now standing.
They numbered then between 4,000 and 5,000. They had been residents, of Nebraska for a century or more, and are spoken of by both Spanish and French explorers as being a warlike and powerful nation, and the most numerous of any west of the Missouri River. They were first heard of via interaction with the Illinois Tribe, and the explorer Marquette noted several bands on his map in 1673.
These tribes were hostile toward the Spaniard Conquistadors but seemingly were friendly toward the American explorers. Their first stopping place on the west side of the Missouri River seems to have been at the confluence of the Republican River, however, they soon moved a considerable distance up the latter stream, where they established a large permanent village of earth-covered lodges. In this settlement, they cultivated vegetables such as corn, beans, and melons, while frequently going off to the buffalo lands to hunt and meet their enemies in warfare.
They claimed the country south to the Kansas River and north to the Platte. Pike, in 1806, estimated the population of three villages at 6,223, with two thousand warriors. The tribe was divided into four bands – T -swa (Grand Pawnee), Tskithka Petower Kattahankies (Republican Pawnee), Tapage Pawnee, and Sker Pawnee, Mahas or Loups.