NOVEMBER 13, 1833

NIGHT THE STARS FELL–LEONID METEOR SHOWER AND THE PAWNEE

The Leonid Meteor Shower happens annually, in mid-November.  However, every 33 years, when the Leonid comet’s orbit takes it closer to Earth, it spawns greater storms.  The 1833 Leonid Meteor Storm was awesome and frightening.  Clear skies across the country meant that hundreds of thousands of meteors could be seen each hour.  There was panic in the streets.  People prayed fearing the end of days.  Native Americans, however, knew about the Leonids.  The Pawnee, using buckskin Star Charts, knew the 1833 Leonids would be special.  Dubbed the “Star Watchers,” their religion and origin story centered around the stars.  One Pawnee folktale tells of a warrior named Pahokatawa, who was killed by his enemies who then fed his remains to wild animals. The gods took him into the sky and restored his life.  Pahokatawa fell back to Earth in a meteorite.  The Leonids, then, were a happy omen.  

Source:  “Pawnee Indians and the Night the Stars Fell,” History Daily, 7/24/2018.  Retrieved 8/9/2018, https://historydaily.org/pawnee-indians-and-the-night-the-stars-fell-to-earth
Photo:  Navicore, 11/17/2009.  Permissive Use. 

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