KEARNEY, Neb. — 150 years after the tribe left Nebraska, members of Pawnee Nation are reconnecting with their ancestral homeland.

About 100 Pawnee visited Kearney on Saturday for a special event honoring the Pawnee Scouts, who were based out of Fort Kearny in the 1860s and 70s. Chief Pat Leading Fox says it was a priority to make the trip from Oklahoma. 

“History means a lot. That’s where we came from. A lot of our stories revolve around that history," Leading Fox said. "That’s who we are. It defines us.”

The scouts are one of the most cherished parts of the tribe’s history. They served with the U.S. Army to help protect settlers and the railroad from other tribes.

“Oh our scouts are revered. They are held upon a high pedestal,” Leading Fox said.

Leading Fox is descended from a Pawnee scout, as were many in attendance, including Lyle Fields.

“My relative was Billy Osborne," Fields said. "I wanted to be here on his behalf and my mom’s behalf, who was always proud of her grandpa.”

He says he feels a tie to the land.

“It’s an emotional connection," Fields said. "The last time I was here, I felt the same emotional moment there, as far as with our ancestors being here.”

Leading Fox started the day with a talk at the Trails and Rails Museum. There were living history performances at Fort Kearny in the morning. The Pawnee performed drums, dances and skits in the afternoon. 

The tribe’s head chief says being in Nebraska at a site with such historic significance is healing.

“It’s been a long time coming. Not only that, but to actually walk, to dance, to sing where our scouts did their basic training," Leading Fox said. "To be there, for me, is monumental.”