April 24, 2024 | Last updated Apr 4, 2024

Native Americans along the Trails at Chimney Rock

While the land was unknown to emigrants during their travels on the trails across Nebraska, it had been home to several Indigenous tribes for thousands of years. They had developed rich cultures and lifeways that were in tune with the land they occupied, be that in eastern or central Nebraska along the trails or in western Nebraska near Chimney Rock.

The tribes the emigrants interacted with in Nebraska included Pawnee, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Both parties were eager to trade for the unique materials offered by the other. The Native Americans traded for glass beads, metal, and blankets. The emigrants sought moccasins and hides.

When visiting the Chimney Rock Visitor Center, you’ll have the opportunity to view some pieces of Indigenous history and learn their stories. Some of the objects you’ll be able to see are a Lakota buckskin dress, pieces decorated with quills and glass beads, and some of the materials they traded with the emigrants traveling across their lands.


Lakota Dress

This buckskin dress decorated with tiny glass beads was made by a member of the Lakota tribe. Tribes of the central plains utilized nearly every part of an animal and this dress is just one small example. Object Record


Since most of the emigrants walked the length of the trails, they quickly wore out their shoes. Moccasins were a coveted trade good for many of the travelers. Moccasins can be decorated with quill or beadwork, or left plain. Sometimes the soles would be made of rawhide to help protect the feet from sharp rocks and harsh prairie grass. These moccasins are likely Lakota. Object Record


Quill Flattener

Prior to the availability of glass beads (and after), Indigenous women would dye porcupine quills to create beautiful works on clothing, sheaths, and more. Prior to being sewn, the quills needed to be flattened. These metal quill flatteners were developed specifically for trade with the Tribes. Object Record


The Chimney Rock and Ethel and Christopher J. Abbot Visitor Center is located in Bayard, Nebraska, and is open every day from May 1 to October 1 and Wednesday to Sunday from October 2 to April 30.

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