Traditionally, Native American societies were self-sufficient in fulfilling their economic and social needs. As hunters-gatherers, fishermen, and agriculturalists, indigenous communities developed systems of governance and societal organization and economies that fit their particular environment. White, in The Roots of Dependency, describes the seasonal cycle of economic activity among the Pawnees of the Central Plains:

The Pawnees planted their crops, gathered wild foods and hunted buffalo in a definite seasonal cycle. Planting came during April and May; then the women hoed the crops twice—first early in June and again later in the month before the departure for the buffalo hunt. The Pawnees spent July and August on the plains hunting buffalo. They returned to their earth lodge villages about the first of September to begin the harvest which was followed by the most elaborate ceremonial cycles of the year. Between the 10th and 15th of November, the villages began their second migration to the buffalo plains. They usually tried to hunt quickly in late fall and early winter before severe cold and snow set in. The tribe secured a supply of meat and then moved from creek bottom to creek bottom to camp. The Pawnees returned to the permanent villages in March when soon the cycle began again. (White 1983, 171)