Pawnee Indians and the Night the Stars Fell to Earth

Engraving depicting the Leonids meteor shower, which was associated with the comet Tempel-Tuttle, as seen over Niagara Falls in 1833. Dated 19th century. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Ancient people have watched the sky since the beginning of time and many cultures established myths and legends associated with the celestial bodies they observe in the night sky. Still, our understanding of meteors was rather primitive when the 1833 Leonid Meteor Storm occurred in North America. This unusually bright and plentiful meteor shower left most of the people in the United States -- from white European settlers to African slaves, to Native Americans – quaking in fear, certain that they were experiencing the end of time. Only one Native American tribe, the Pawnees, not only predicted the meteor shower, but they celebrated it.