By the early 1600s, the ancestors of the Pawnee Nation began consolidating into a few large communities. Each was home to hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Some of these were built along nearby Shell Creek. These Shell Creek cities may have been built by ancestors of the Čawî, Kitkehahki, and Pîtahawirâta bands. Oral tradition mentions an ancestral group, the Kawarakîs. The other major division of the Pawnee, the Ckîri, built their early communities near Genoa.
The Shell Creek villages were occupied before the Pawnees acquired horses and guns. A few items of European manufacture found at these sites show direct or indirect contact with early French traders. During this time, the Pawnees made a beautiful assortment of tools and ornaments fashioned from bone, stone, shell, antler, and clay. The Pawnees built and lived in sturdy earth lodges, timber-framed lodges covered with earth. These lodges were occupied for decades. Community members grew large amounts of corn and other crops. They went on long-distance hunting trips into Kansas, using dogs to carry home processed buffalo meat and stone for tool manufacture.