Scalping

Scalping

The removal of the skin covering the top of a person head during or after a battle dates back to the Scythians (c. 400 BC). The Visigoths also took scalps during the wars with the Anglo-Saxons in the 9th century. When the Europeans first visited America they observed that the Huron, Chichimec, Iroquoi and Muskhogean tribes scalped enemy warriors. The Spanish administrator of Mexico, Francisco de Garay, reported in 1520 of seeing the "cutting of the skin off the entire head and face, with hair and beard". However, there is no evidence that the majority of Native American tribes at this time were involved in scalping.

In 1688, the French-Canadians began paying for every enemy scalp. This encouraged the emergence of groups trying to make a business out of scalping settlers. The British responded in 1693 by announcing that they would pay money for the scalps of Frenchmen and their Indian allies. As much as £100 was obtained for an important scalp.

In 1777, Jane McCrea, the fiancée of a soldier serving with General Burgoyne's army, was captured by Indians allied to the British. Then during a dispute between two warriors, Jane was scalped. General Burgoyne did not punish the guilty men for fear of breaking the alliance with that tribe. This decision enraged local Americans and many men now joined in the struggle against the British. It was later claimed that the death of Jane McCrea greatly aided the rebel cause and contributed to the defeat of Burgoyne's army at Saratoga. The incident continued to be used as propaganda against the English and the story was immortalized by John Vanderlyn's painting, The Death of Jane McCrea, in 1804.

This policy of scalping spread to the Americans during the 19th century and they paid bounties for the scalps of troublesome tribes such as the Apache. The idea of scalping as an act of revenge was adopted by the Plains tribes during the Indian Wars.

The scalp was usually taken from a dead enemy. Pierre Pouchot saw soldiers being scalped in about 1760: "As soon as the man is felled, they run up to him, thrust their knee in between his shoulder blades, seize a tuft of hair in one hand and, with their knife in the other, cut around the skin of the head and pull the whole piece away." Some warriors gained status by scalping a man during combat. This involved making a knife incision around the scalp lock and pulling the hair back very quickly. Although extremely painful, being scalped alive was not always fatal.

A full-scalping would often lead to serious medical complications. This included profuse bleeding, infection, and eventual death if the bone of the skull was left exposed. Death could also occur from septicemia, meningitis or necrosis of the skull.

The fashion of head shaving, except for a small lock of hair, on the crown of the head, developed amongst the Plains Indians. This hair covered about two inches in diameter and therefore only a minor wound would result from being scalped. However, it was a great insult for a Native American to be scalped while still alive. For example, the Arikara tribe would treat a scalped warrior as an outcast.

Native American tribes used scalping to persuade Americans from abandoning the idea of taking their land. Nelson Lee was unlucky enough to captured by the Comanche tribe. "During all the time they were thus exhibiting the result of their savage work, they resorted to every hideous device to inspire us with terror. They would rush toward us with uplifted tomahawks, stained with blood, as if determined to strike, or grasp us by the hair, flourishing their knives around our heads as though intending to take our scalps. So far as I could understand their infernal shouts and pantomime, they sought to tell us that the fate which had overtaken our unfortunate companions not only awaited us, but likewise the whole race of the hated white man. All the dead, without exception, were scalped and the scalps, still fresh, were dangling from their belts.

After the battle had finished the warrior would clean and dry the scalp. Thomas Gist witnessed this while he was being held prisoner. "The men began to scrape the flesh and blood from the scalps, and dry them by the fire, after which they dressed them with feathers and painted them, then tied them on white, red, and black poles".

When a war party has captured one or more prisoners that cannot be taken away, it is the usual custom to kill them by breaking their heads with the blows of a tomahawk. When he has struck two or three blows, the savage quickly seizes his knife, and makes an incision around the hair from the upper part of the forehead to the back of the neck. Then he puts his foot on the shoulder of the victim, whom he has turned over face down, and pulls the hair off with both hands, from back to front . This hasty operation is no sooner finished than the savage fastens the scalp to his belt and goes on his way. This method is only used when the prisoner cannot follow his captor; or when the Indian is pursued . He quickly takes the scalp, gives the death cry, and flees at top speed. Savages always announce their valor by a death cry, when they have taken a scalp . When a savage has taken a scalp, and is not afraid he is being pursued, he stops and scrapes the skin to remove the blood and fibres on it. He makes a hoop of green wood, stretches the skin over it like a tambourine, and puts it in the sun to dry a little. The skin is painted red, and the hair on the outside combed. When prepared, the scalp is fastened to the end of a long stick, and carried on his shoulder in triumph to the village or place where he wants to put it. But as he nears each place on his way, he gives as many cries as he has scalps to announce his arrival and show his bravery. Sometimes as many as 15 scalps are fastened on the same stick. When there are too many for one stick, they decorate several sticks with the scalps.

The men began to scrape the flesh and blood from the scalps, and dry them by the fire, after which they dressed them with feathers and painted them, then tied them on white, red, and black poles, which they made so by pealing the bark and then painting them as it suited them.

As soon as the man is felled, they run up to him, thrust their knee in between his shoulder blades, seize a tuft of hair in one hand and, with their knife in the other, cut around the skin of the head and pull the whole piece away. The whole thing is done very expeditiously. Then, brandishing the scalp, they utter a whoop which they call the 'death whoop'. If they are not under pressure and the victory has cost them lives, they behave in an extremely cruel manner towards those they kill or the dead bodies. They disembowel them and smear their blood all over themselves.

It is a custom of the Indians, when one of their number is slain or taken prisoner in battle, to give to the nearest relative to the dead or absent, a prisoner, if they have chanced to take one, and if not, to give him the scalp of an enemy. On the return of the Indians from conquest, which is always announced by peculiar shoutings, demonstrations of joy, and the exhibition of some trophy of victory, the mourners come forward and make their claims. If they receive a prisoner, it is at their option either to satiate their vengeance, by taking his life in the most cruel manner they can conceive of; or, to receive and adopt him into the family, in the place of him whom they have lost. All the prisoners that are taken in battle and carried to the encampment or town by the Indians, are given to the bereaved families, till their number is made good. And unless the mourners have but just received the news of their bereavement, and are under the operation of a paroxysm of grief, anger and revenge; or, unless the prisoner is very old, sickly, or homely, they generally save him, and treat him kindly. But if their mental wound is fresh, their loss so great that they deem it irreparable, or if their prisoner or prisoners do not meet their approbation, no torture, let it be ever so cruel, seems sufficient to make them satisfaction. It is family, and not national, sacrifices amongst the Indians, that has given them an indelible stamp as barbarians, and identified their character with the idea which is generally formed of unfeeling ferocity, and the most abandoned cruelty.

Seizing with his left hand the long and braided lock on the centre of the Indian's head, he passed the point edge of his keen butcher-knife round the parting, turning it at the same time under the skin to separate the scalp from the skull; then, with a quick and sudden jerk of his hand, he removed it entirely from the head, and giving the reeking trophy a wring upon the grass to free it from the blood, he coolly hitched it under his belt, and proceeded to the next; but seeing La Bonte operating upon this, he sought the third, who lay some little distance from the others. This one was still alive, a pistol-ball having passed through his body, without touching a vital spot. Thrusting his knife, for mercy's sake, into the bosom of the Indian, he likewise tore the scalp-lock from his head, and placed it with the other.

Apropos to scalps, I have seen many of the warriors here, who had one or more of these suspended as decorations to their dress; and they seemed to me so much a part and parcel of the sauvagerie around me, that I looked on them generally without emotion or pain. But there was one thing I never could see without a start, and a thrill of horror - the scalp of long fair hair.

The Minnetaree village is a large village of dirt houses. Soon after we arrived the people who crowded the bank commenced a scalp dance on the top of the bluff in front of the pickets. They used two drums, like tambourines, which were beat by the dancers themselves, and they danced in a ring from right to left about 30 in all, one-third of them women. They all danced. The women sang in a sort of chorus, with their voices an octave above those of the men. The step was the up and down on the heel step. They were celebrating the taking of the Sioux scalp we heard complained of at Fort Pierre. This morning I met the 3 who took the scalp, painted and dressed, coming through the village towards the boat, and walking side and slide, singing their exploit. The dance, the song, the music, and the step among all our Indians came out of one brain.

I soon became aware that the only members of the party who escaped the massacre, which proved to have been bloody as it was sudden, were Thomas Martin, John Stewart, Atkins, and myself.

Their next step was to collect the plunder. In this, they were, indeed, thorough. Not only did they gather up all our buffalo skins, Mexican blankets, rifles and revolvers, culinary utensils, and the like, but the dead bodies were stripped to the last shred, and tied on the backs of their mules. Nothing was left behind. By this time the morning light began to break on the eastern mountains, and preparations were made to depart. Before starting, however, they unbound our feet, conducted us through the camp, pointing out the stark corpses of our butchered comrades, who had lain down to sleep with such light and happy hearts the night before. The scene was awful and heart-rending beyond the imagination of man to conceive. Not satisfied with merely putting them to death, they had cut and hacked the poor, cold bodies in the most brutal and wanton manner; some having their arms and hands chopped off, others emboweled, and still others with their tongues drawn out and sharp sticks thrust through them. They then led us out some three or four hundred yards from the camp and pointed out the dead bodies of the sentinels, thus assuring us that not one of the entire party had escaped.

During all the time they were thus exhibiting the result of their savage work, they resorted to every hideous device to inspire us with terror. All the dead, without exception, were scalped and the scalps, still fresh, were dangling from their belts.

The report of the unfortunate young women (Frances and Almira Hall) communicated to their friends and relatives, on their return from captivity, although treated with less severity, cannot fail to be read with much interest - they state, that after being compelled to witness not only the savage butchery of their beloved parents, but to hear the heart-piercing screeches and dying groans of their expiring friends and neighbors, and the hideous yells of the furious assaulting savages, they were seized and mounted upon horses, to which they were secured by ropes, when the savages with an exulting shout, took up their line of march in Indian file, bending their course west; the horses on which the females were mounted, being each led by one of their number, while two more walked on each side with their bloodstained scalping knives and tomahawks, to support and to guard them - they thus travelled for many hours, with as much speed as possible through a dark and almost impenetrable wood; when reaching a still more dark and gloomy swamp, they came to a halt. A division of the plunder which they had brought from the ill-fated settlement, and with which their stolen horses (nine in number) were loaded, here took place, each savage stowing away in his pack his proportional share as he received it; but on nothing did they seem to set so great a value, or view with so much satisfaction, as the bleeding scalps which they had, ere life had become extinct torn from the mangled heads of the expiring victims! the feelings of the unhappy prisoners at this moment, can be better judged than described when they could not be insensible that among these scalps, these shocking proofs of savage Cannibalism, were those of their beloved parents! but their moans and bitter lamentations had no effect in moving or diverting for a moment the savages from the business in which they had engaged, until it was competed; when, with as little delay as possible, and without giving themselves time to partake of any refreshment, (as the prisoners could perceive) they again set forward, and travelled with precipitancy until sunset when they again halted, and prepared a temporary lodging for the night-the poor unfortunate females, whose feelings as may be supposed, could be no other than such as bordered on distraction, and who had not ceased for a moment to weep most bitterly during the whole day, could not but believe that they were here destined to become the victims of savage outrage and abuse; and that their sufferings would soon terminate, as they would not (as they imagined) be permitted to live to see the light of another day!

That night we came in contact with a company of men and had a little fight. We killed one white man and captured fifteen horses. I think this must have been near Ballinger. We came down to Pack Saddle in Llano County and there had a terrible fight with four white men. We were in the roughs and so were the whites, so neither had the advantage, but we routed them in about a half hour. I think I wounded one of the white men severely. I had a good shot at him, but they all got away.

We wended our way from there to House mountains, and there we captured a nice herd of horses, and this increased our drove to fifty. We went our same old route up the Llano river, but the rangers got on our trail and followed us up through Mason county, but we made for Kickapoo Springs, but the rangers had changed horses and were giving us close chase. We changed horses often and rode cautiously and made our escape, but we were followed to the edge of the plains. We reached home safely and with all our horses, but the Mexicans had again joined our squaws, and this time they had plenty of mescal and corn whiskey, and tobacco in abundance. We all got drunk and one hundred and forty Indian warriors and sixty Mexicans went on a cattle raid. West of Fort Griffin, on the old trail, we ran into a big herd being driven to Kansas. There were about twenty hands with the cattle. We rushed up and opened fire. The cattle stampeded and the cowboys rode in an opposite direction. There were enough of us to surround the cattle and chase the boys. We soon gave the boys up and started for Mexico with the herd, but the second day we were overtaken by about forty white men, who tried to retake the cattle, and in the attempt two Mexicans and one Indian were killed - the Indian was shot through the neck - and we had four horses killed. We repulsed them and got possession of two of their dead, who were promptly scalped. We put the scalps of those boys on high poles and had a big feast and war dance. We slew forty beeves and roasted them all at once. We kept up a chant and dance around those scalps day and night.

The skull of one poor squaw was blown, literally, to atoms, revealing the ridge of the palate and presenting a most ghastly and revolting spectacle. Another of the dead females, a middle-aged woman, was so riddled by bullets that there appeared to be no unwounded part of her person left. The third victim was young, plump, and, comparatively speaking, light of color. She had a magnificent physique, and, for an Indian, a most attractive set of features. She had been shot through the left breast just over the heart and was not in the least disfigured.

Ute John, the solitary friendly Indian who did not desert the column, scalped all the dead, unknown to the General or any of the officers, and I regret to be compelled to state a few - a very few - brutalized soldiers followed his savage example. Each took only a portion of the scalp, but the exhibition of human depravity was nauseating. The unfortunates should have been respected, even in the coldness and nothingness of death. In that affair, surely, the army were the assailants and the savages acted purely in self defense. I must add in justice to all concerned that neither General Crook nor any of his officers or men suspected that any women or children were in the gully until their cries were heard above the volume of fire poured upon the fatal spot.


Governments Used to Pay For Native American Scalps Which Made Scalping a Booming Business

In 1641, Willem Kieft, director of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, offered a friendly Native American tribe a disturbing deal. He would pay, he declared, 10 fathoms of &ldquowampum&rdquo for every scalp cut from the skulls of the nearby Raritan tribe they brought him. It was a good deal. Wampum, or strips of beaded cloth, worked as a form of currency in the barter system used by Native American tribes. And 10 fathoms was a healthy sum. The tribe agreed. They probably weren&rsquot the first on the continent. Nor would they be the last. The agreement was part of a system that brought death and suffering to people across North America for hundreds of years.

For the Dutch, the scalp bounty was useful. They were outnumbered and in conflict with neighboring tribes of Native Americans. By paying them to hunt each other&rsquos scalps, they could practice a divide and conquer strategy that kept their enemies weak. Why risk being killed fighting Native Americans when you could just pay someone else to do it? Because it was such a useful strategy for the Dutch and other European colonizers, it became a common practice for new governments to pay for scalps as waves of new settlers came to North America.

A battle between settlers and Native Americans during King Phillip&rsquos war. Wikimedia Commons.

Today, many people associate Native Americans with scalping. But scalping has a long history that reaches far from North America. According to Herodotus, the ancient Scythians, who lived around the Black Sea, had to present their king with the scalp of an enemy to get a share of the post-battle spoils. In the 9th century AD, the Franks and Anglo-Saxons scalped their enemies after battles and during raids. Scalping likely had different meanings for different peoples who practiced it. But at its core, it seems to have been about humiliating and disempowering their enemies while boosting the status of the warrior who took the scalp. It was a trophy to prove their ability in battle.

The actual mechanics of scalping likely varied as well. But generally, once a victim was dead or too wounded to move, a blade was placed at the top of their forehead, just below the hairline. Then it would be drawn back across the side of the head, sawing through the flesh. Once the cut was complete, a quick tug separated the skin from the top of the skull. The skin could then be preserved as a trophy, if necessary, to be hung from the warrior&rsquos horse or body. Or in the case of the scalp bounties, turned in for cash.

A depiction of a scalping. Wikimedia Commons.

The lure of quick profit played a large part in the growth of scalping among Native American tribes. While we often associate them today with scalping, before the arrival of Europeans, relatively few Native American tribes in the East actually practiced it. But once the new governments on the continent started to pay for scalps, there was a new economic motivation to hunt for them. And scalping wasn&rsquot limited to Native Americans. European settlers themselves began collecting on the bounties for scalps.


Scalpers believe that it's less risky to profit from small moves in stock prices than to take the risk on large price moves. It involves setting tight trading windows, in terms of both price movement and timeframe.

Scalping comes with the lost opportunity cost of bigger gains, so it requires discipline. Scalpers get out of trades once their profit target has been hit, rather than waiting to see whether they can profit more. They also exit trades when their target loss level has been hit, rather than waiting to see whether the trade turns around.

Market Analysis for Scalping

Traders who adopt this trading style rely on technical analysis rather than fundamental analysis. Technical analysis is a way to assess a stock's past price movement. Traders use charts and indicators to find trading events and create entry and exit points.

With the day's trading prices open in real-time charts, scalpers can observe a stock's price action. Using indicators and known patterns, they try to predict how a price will move in the next few seconds or minutes. Then, they set up low and high trading points and use them to enter and exit trades.

In contrast, fundamental analysis involves using data from a company's financial statements to calculate ratios that help to assess value based on investing goals. This allows traders to evaluate a company and manage risk for growing their wealth over time.

Fundamental analysis is more suitable for long-term investing, while technical analysis works better for short-term strategies like scalping.

Scalpers may trade on news or an event that alters a company’s value upon its release. In some cases, they might use short-term changes in fundamental ratios to scalp trades. For the most part, they focus on technical indicators and charts.

Since these charts indicate prices of the past, they lose value if the time horizon increases. The time horizon is how long a position is held. The longer a scalper holds a position, the less value that position tends to have for them. That is why technical analysis and trading indicators work better for the short-term nature of scalping.

Scalpers can be either discretionary or systematic traders. Discretionary scalpers quickly make each trading decision based on market conditions. It is up to the trader to decide the parameters of each trade (e.g., timing or profit targets).

Systematic scalpers rely little on their instincts. Instead, they use computer programs that automate scalping with artificial intelligence to conduct trades based on the criteria set by the user. When the program sees a trading opportunity, it acts without waiting for the trader to assess that position or trade.

Discretionary scalping introduces bias into the trading process that can pose a risk. Emotions may tempt you to make a bad trade, or fail to take action at the appropriate time. Systematic scalping takes human control away from trading decisions, making the trades unbiased.


Update: Yes, A 'Redskin' Does, In Fact, Mean the Scalped Head of a Native American, Sold, Like a Pelt, for Cash

The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory. This sum is more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.

Many challenge what the term "redskin" means to Native Americans. I heard from a lot of them yesterday about a piece detailing how the term has affected my life as a Native American. Some accused us of personally forging and inventing the Phips Proclamation, a historical document from 1755 that called for the scalping of Indians. Others accused us of making up the etymology of the word. Others implied it doesn't matter because "there's like 6 true Native Americans" left anyway.

A few cited a study written by Smithsonian Institution senior linguist Ives Goddard that makes the case that the word did not begin as an insult.

But here is a quote from another member of the Smithsonian &ndash Kevin Gover, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and director of the Institution's National Museum of the American Indian:

"I'm really not that interested in where the word comes from," Gover said. "I know how it was used. And it's been used in a disparaging way for at least a couple of centuries. Up to and including the time I was growing up in Oklahoma."

What is germane to the conversation? What is semantics? That is debatable. The fact remains that to many Native Americans, the term "redskin" has long meant the act of our ancestor's scalps being collected for bounty.

The kind of bounty that was referenced above. The kind of bounty that was referenced in the 1755 Phips Proclamation.

In terms of etymology, words change and meanings evolve. Fag, for instance, was once the accepted spelling for a cigarette throughout most of Europe. Now it's a common gay slur. Wetback, a Latino editor told me yesterday, was once a common term in headlines, but no longer.

All throughout yesterday, I received a deluge of feedback to my piece for Esquire. Here is one note. It is from a Native American.

Those redskins were ripped from native heads, ripping apart families, tribes, the very essence of our tribal cultures.

Redskins. Grotesque in every sense of the word.


THE DELICATE ART OF SCALPING

The following excerpts are from a Muzzleloader Magazine article written by George A. Bray III, who among other things, moonlights as our site historian. To order the back issue containing "The Delicate Art of Scalping" in its entirety call Muzzleloader at (903) 832 - 4726. Request Volume 13, Number 2 1986.

Note: Breaks in text continuity are represented by a wood bar.

The Delicate Art Of Scalping

Scalping was being practiced by the Native Americans prior to the arrival of any European explorers and settlers. In 1535, the first French explorer, Jacques Cartier, was shown "the scalps of five Indians stretched on hoops like parchment " by Indians near present-day Quebec City.

It is believed that a warrior's scalp-lock once symbolized his life force. For another to touch it in any way was considered a severe insult. It also served as a trophy of war, and served as verification that the scalper was a brave warrior who had indeed inflicted casualties upon his foes. Sir William Johnson, the famous Superintendent of Indian Affairs in North America, wrote in 1772 that the Indians considered scalping to be " a National Act and Declaration of War ."

Captain Francois Pouchot, French commandant of Fort Niagara during the French and Indian War, describes how a scalp was taken in his Memoir Upon the Late War in North America . He relates that " as soon as the man has fallen, they run to him, put their knee between his shoulders, take a lock of hair in one hand, and with their knife in the other give a blow separating the skin from the head, and tearing off a piece. This is a thing quickly done then showing the scalp they utter a cry they call the death cry ".

Another French writer of the period, known only by his initials of J.C.B., also describes the act. " The savage quickly seizes his knife, and makes an incision around the hair from the upper part of the forehead to the back of the neck. Then he puts his foot on the shoulder of the victim, whom he has turned over face down, and pulls the hair off with both hands, from back to front. When a savage has taken a scalp, and is not afraid he is being pursued, he stops and scrapes the skin to remove the blood and fibres on it. He makes a hoop of green wood, stretches the skin over it like a tambourine, and puts it in the sun to dry a little. The skin is painted red, and the hair on the outside combed. When prepared, the scalp is fastened to the end of a long stick, and carried on his shoulder in triumph to the village or place where he wants to put it. But as he nears each place on his way, he gives as many cries as he has scalps to announce his arrival and show his bravery. Sometimes as many as 15 scalps are fastened on the same stick. When there are too many for one stick, they decorate several sticks with the scalps ."

Once a scalp was dried and painted, it often became a decorative device. The missionary to the Abenaki Indians at St. Francis, Father Pierre Joseph Antoine Roubaud, wrote in a narrative relating to the 1757 siege and subsequent massacre at Fort William Henry that the Indians " were engaged in counting the number of barbarous trophies - that is to say, the English scalps - with which the canoes were decorated . " It was at the Abenaki village of St. Francis that the famous ranger commander, Major Robert Rogers, " found. hanging on poles over their doors, etc. about 600 scalps, mostly English " prior to his destruction of the town in 1759.

The Iroquois likewise decorated their villages, or "castles," with scalps. The first Dutchmen to enter upstate New York during the winter of 1634-35 viewed atop one of the gates of the old Oneida Castle on Oriskany Creek " three wooden images carved like men, and with them . three scalps fluttering in the wind ." On a smaller gate was yet another.

Scalps could also be used as replacements for the dead. In Albany, on May 18, 1758, " Capt. Jacob Head, of a Company of Stockbridge Indians, brought to Sir William's (Johnson) lodgings four French scalps, which his cousin, chief of another company of said Indians, had taken from the enemy some few days before ." These four scalps were offered to Johnson to replace some dead Indians, one being for the Mohawk chief King Hendrick who was killed at the Battle of Lake George in September, 1755.

Although the Europeans did not originate scalping, they certainly did encourage its promotion and spread. This was accomplished by the posting of bounties for each scalp brought in .

It is commonly believed that scalps were only taken from the dead, or that those scalped died as a result. This is simply not true, and many cases can be documented. As Warren Johnson, Sir William's brother, wrote in his journal on April 12, 1761, " There are many instances of both men and women recovering after being scalped ." He also verifies J. C. B. 's description of how the scalp was removed from the head. " They pull it off from the back of the head."

In May, 1756, just prior to the French laying siege to the forts at Oswego, French allied Indians skulked about the English fortifications to inflict what casualties they could and lift scalps. Stephen Cross, a shipbuilder from Massachusetts, writes in his journal on May 25 that, " This morning found that Indians had killed 3 Dutch battoe men, who had camped about a stones throw from the hospital, having come upon them asleep, and cut their throats and scalped them before they fired off a gun. One of our soldiers came in from the edge of the woods, where it seems he had lain all night having been out on the evening party the day before and got drunk and could not get in, and not being missed, but on seeing him found he had lost his scalp, but he could not tell how or when, having no others around. We supposed the Indians had stumbled over him in the dark, and supposed him dead, had taken off his scalp. " This incident is confirmed by the journal of the British engineer Patrick Mackeller who wrote the day before that, " They likewise scalped a soldier who lay drunk asleep (he afterwards recover'd ). "

Another account comes from the New Hampshire Gazette of March 10, 1758. In a letter dated at Albany, February 14, 1758, the following is recorded: "On Wednesday the 8th Instant, a number of men were sent from Fort Edward to cut wood, and for their protection, the commanding officer thought proper to send a sergeant, corporal, and 24 private men, as a covering party to the wood cutters. They were not 200 yards from the blockhouses, before they were waylaid, and fired upon by a superior number of the enemy who had the advantage of snowshoes. They killed the sergeant and 11 privates, wounded 4, and 6 are missing, supposed to be captivated, before they could retreat to the garrison. We hear that a man belonging to the above party, some hours after arrived at Fort Edward, and said he had left his nightcap, meaning he was scalped by the enemy. 'Tis said he is almost recovered ."

During the famous massacre at Fort William Henry in August, 1757, Ezekiel Stevens of Derryfield, New Hampshire, was scalped, tomahawked, and left for dead. His entire scalp was taken off, just above his ears. When he recovered his strength enough to rise, he was found and cared for by some French officers. Once his ghastly wounds healed he returned home. For want of hair, he wore a cap. He lived to be a good old age.

Note the techniques of scalping as described in this article and how they compare with the depiction of scalping found in The Last of the Mohicans face down, a swift cut from front to back, and so forth.

Dear Major Bray: January 16, 2002 I have a question concerning your online publication concerning scalping. You write, Scalping was being practiced by the Native Americans prior to the arrival of any European explorers and settlers. In 1535, the first French explorer, Jacques Cartier, was shown "the scalps of five Indians stretched on hoops like parchment" by Indians near present-day Quebec City. Could this not be explained as Indian scalps taken by outsiders? You also state, "Scalping, of course, predated the mid-eighteenth century. Historical records, archaeology, and other sciences strongly indicate the practice originated among certain Native American tribes.1 A French soldier, identified by the initials J. C. B., related in his memoirs that "this horrible custom was practiced by these savages alone, and sprang from their own barbarism, for it seems never to have existed in any other nation, not even among nations, who, like them, have never received any idea of civilized life."2 My question centers on the accuracy of these statements. Most reputable historic sources claim that scalping originated amongst Visigoths, Franks, and the Scythians. These same sources also claim that only a small percentage of Indians learned and adopted these practices from the French and English whereas you claim it was a widespread, indigenous practice. If we actually look for origins of this practice amongst the North American Indians, according to the book Heritage in Canada, scalping in North America probably began with a governor of the New Netherlands colony who wanted Native people killed. He paid for the scalps, considering them proof of the Natives' death. Do you have a degree in history, are you an actual Major, and upon what source or sources do you base your above claims?
The Major Replies: Thank you for your inquiry on my scalping article. I am sorry for the delay in responding to you. I am a major in a reenactment unit that is involved in the French and Indian War, which is my true area of interest. I have no history degree, but have studied the conflict for well over 30 years. My sources were listed at the end of the article you read, I believe, as I noted the endnotes in the text you copied. I took most of the historical data from a couple of articles written by James Axtell, who is a professor at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. They are referenced in my article. Also, I have looked at other materials as well. I am aware that it is commonly stated that Europeans were the ones who introduced the practice to the Native American, but at this time, I do not feel from research I have done that this is the case. As to other early Europeans doing it, such as the tribes you mentioned, it did not seem to carry over into the European culture as there is no evidence of them practicing it in the various conflicts/wars that were fought in the 17th and 18th centuries, except in North America. And, while I suppose that Cartier could have been presented scalps taken by others and presented to the Indians that presented them to him, it is just as feasible to think that they had procured them themselves. As too how widespread it was, I would not attribute the practice to all Native American tribes. I was looking primarily at the eastern seaboard as that is where the war took place. My real purpose for writing the article was to show some examples of what happened during the French and Indian War and to point out that it was a lucrative practice and that many survived that were scalped. There have been many misconceptions about the subject and I hoped to dispel some of them. I hope I have answered your questions, and that if I can help further that you will let me know.

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To read Major Bray's updated and complete article on scalping during the French & Indian War: Scalping During the French and Indian War

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Scalping as a Supplementary Style

Traders with longer time frames can use scalping as a supplementary approach. The most obvious way is to use it when the market is choppy or locked in a narrow range. When there are no trends in a longer time frame, going to a shorter time frame can reveal visible and exploitable trends, which can lead a trader to pursue a scalp.

Another way to add scalping to longer time-frame trades is through the so-called "umbrella" concept. This approach allows a trader to improve their cost basis and maximize a profit. Umbrella trades are done in the following way:

  • A trader initiates a position for a longer time-frame trade.
  • While the main trade develops, a trader identifies new setups in a shorter time frame in the direction of the main trade, entering and exiting them by the principles of scalping.

Based on particular setups, any trading system can be used for the purposes of scalping. In this regard, scalping can be seen as a kind of risk management method. Basically, any trade can be turned into a scalp by taking a profit near the 1:1 risk/reward ratio. This means that the size of the profit taken equals the size of a stop dictated by the setup. If, for instance, a trader enters his or her position for a scalp trade at $20 with an initial stop at $19.90, the risk is

Tips for Novice Scalpers

With low barriers to entry in the trading world, the number of people trying their hands at day trading and other strategies, including scalping, has increased. Newcomers to scalping need to make sure the trading style suits their personality because it requires a disciplined approach. Traders need to make quick decisions, spot opportunities, and constantly monitor the screen. Those who are impatient and feel gratified by picking small successful trades are perfect for scalping.

That said, scalping is not the best trading strategy for rookies it involves fast decision-making, constant monitoring of positions, and frequent turnover. Still, there are a few tips that can help novice scalpers.

Order Execution

A novice needs to master the art of efficient order execution. A delayed or bad order can wipe out what little profit was earned (and even result in a loss). Since the profit margin per trade is limited, the order execution has to be accurate. As mentioned above, this requires supporting systems, such as Direct Access Trading and Level 2 quotations.

Frequency and Costs

A novice scalper has to make sure to keep costs in mind while making trades. Scalping involves numerous trades—as many as hundreds during a trading session. Frequent buying and selling are bound to be costly in terms of commissions, which can shrink the profit. This makes it crucial to choose the right online broker. The broker should not only provide requisites—like direct access to markets—but also competitive commissions. And remember, not all brokers allow scalping.

Trading

Spotting the trend and momentum comes in handy for a scalper who can even enter and exit briefly to repeat a pattern. A novice needs to understand the market pulse, and once the scalper has identified that, trend trading and momentum trading can help achieve more profitable trades. Another strategy used by scalpers is a countertrend. But beginners should avoid using this strategy and stick to trading with the trend.

Trading Sides

Beginners are usually more comfortable with trading on the buy-side and should stick to it before they gain sufficient confidence and expertise to handle the short side. However, scalpers must eventually balance long and short trades for the best results.

Technical Analysis

Novices should equip themselves with the basics of technical analysis to combat increasing competition in the intra-day world. This is especially relevant in today's markets, which are dominated by high-frequency trading (HFT). Not to mention that the majority of trades now take place away from the exchanges, in dark pools that don't report in real-time.

Since scalpers can no longer rely solely on real-time, market depth analysis to get the signals they need to book multiple small profits in a typical trading day, it's recommended that they use technical indicators that are intended for very small time frames. There are three technical indicators that are ideal for short-term opportunities: moving average ribbon entry strategy, relative strength/weakness exit strategy, and multiple chart scalping.

One technical indicator that is appropriate for a scalping trading strategy is called multiple chart scalping. First, create a 15-minute chart without any indicators that you can use to keep track of any background conditions that could impact your intraday performance. Then add three lines: one for the opening print, and two for the high and low of the trading range that is set up in the first 45 to 90 minutes of the session. Watch for price action at those levels they will also set up larger-scale, two-minute buy or sell signals. Your greatest profits during the trading day will come when scalps align with support and resistance levels on the 15-minute, 60-minute, or daily charts.

Volume

As a technique, scalping requires frequent entry and exit decisions within a short time frame. Such a strategy can only be successfully implemented when orders can be filled, and this depends on liquidity levels. High-volume trades offer much-needed liquidity.

Discipline

As a rule, it is best to close all positions during a day's trading session and not carry them over to the next day. Scalping is based on small opportunities that exist in the market, and a scalper should not deviate from the basic principle of holding a position for a short time period.

.10. This means a 1:1 risk/reward ratio will be reached at $20.10.

Scalp trades can be executed on both long and short sides. They can be done on breakouts or in range-bound trading. Many traditional chart formations, such as cups and handles or triangles, can be used for scalping. The same can be said about technical indicators if a trader bases decisions on them.


Beachcombing cannot deny it. He has a bit of a thing about the removal of heads this week. First, there was the question of the last western beheadings, second an exploration by photograph of Japanese decapitations in the Second World War and today he is going to move on to a close cousin of beheading, scalping.

He promises that after that he will leave heads well alone for at least a month.

Now Beachcombing will hardly surprise any reader if he states that scalping involves removing the top of the scalp from the head with a knife. The scalp is then typically kept for bounty money or as a war souvenir (often with holy connotations, see below). Scalping has been used in various societies in various parts of the world. But it is certainly most easily associated with the American west where both Amerindian and Colonial types resorted to scalp-chopping. Read Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for the dirt.

But Beachcombing will probably surprise his readers when he states that the latest instance of scalping he has found comes from the Second World War.

Beachcombing quotes from The Taking and Displaying of Human Body Parts by Amerindians (2007), 625.

Lastly, we would like to point out that trophy taking by some Amerindian individuals and groups has continued well into the modern period. During World War II, a Winnebago serving in the US armed forces took a German scalp and returned with it to a traditional victory dance. Such trophies became cherished family heirlooms and are placed within a family’s war bundle, or they are placed on a grave so that the spirit of the scalped man may serve the deceased in the hereafter.

This an almost comically downplayed summary of the extraordinary description given in Nancy Lurie Mountain Wolf Woman, Sister of Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (1961). Mountain Wolf Woman, the narrator, unfortunately gives no information as to where the scalp was taken. However, she does describe the scalp being welcomed home. Beachcombing invites his readers to enjoy the peyote-fuelled dancing and the unexpected appearance of the German.

At one time I thought it was just empty talk when they spoke about old religious ways. Once they said they were going to have a scalp dance, a victory dance with the scalp. One of the scalps was going to come back [i.e. the German scalp], they were saying… In the evening they had a victory dance. They danced outside. I was right in the midst of things with my quilt top. I danced and when they were finished with the victory dance and the sun was going down they then danced around the lodge and everybody danced. We danced all around the lodge and then we went inside the lodge. They put the drum down and they stuck in the ground the stick to which the ornamented scalp was attached. In the course of the ceremony people are invited to dance with the scalp, and danced with the scalp. It came time for the feasting and they ate. Then the night dancing was begun. All night long we danced. Outside there were a lot of automobiles. This is something I think and this is why I am telling it. Long ago whenever they did this they did everything in the proper way. But now, late at night, everybody left one by one. It would seem that the people would do things as they are supposed to do them, but they went away. The only ones remaining were Cloud Over There, Queen of Thunder and Water Spirit Woman. These people who were leaving were going to be in their tents outside and they were even sleeping in the cars. When day began to break we sang as loudly as we could so that with our singing we would awaken those who were sleeping. We were singers. Three women singers were left and Cloud Over There, the man who was supposed to give the war whoop at the end of the songs. He would do this. We were doing things according to the rules. It seemed we peyotists were the only ones who were left and who were dancing. They saw us, but that is the way they behaved, those people who were holding the dance. They did not obey the rules.

They held the dance for two nights and on the second night when day overtook us, I came home. But we had a little narrow cot in the kitchen and I went there to lie down. My granddaughters said, ‘Grandmother, are you tired?’ I was not really sleepy and I said, ‘I am just resting for a little while. I am not very tired but am going to lie down here.’ ‘all right, grandmother, I am going to close the door,’ one of them said, so they would not disturb me. I lay there, closing my eyes now and then. I became rather drowsy but I did not sleep deeply. Suddenly, there was a young man with blond hair combed back in a wavy pompadour. He was a handsome young man and he was wearing a soldier’s uniform. He had on a khaki jacket and he had his hands in the pockets. Oh, he was dancing, dancing the way everyone else was dancing! He began dancing and I saw him glance at me. ‘Oh we beat you!’, I said. ‘We beat you. That is why we are dancing at your expense, with your scalp. Whatever power you had is all going to be ours because we beat you!’. I sat up. I was startled. That is what I saw.

Later, when we ate, we invited my nephew Lone Man to eat with us. I told him what I had seen. ‘Well, aunt’, he said, ‘you respected that scalp dance from the beginning… You were there two nights. You spent the time properly. That is what you did. You spoke the truth in saying that we beat them, even in doing this you respected the scalp dance. Some do not respect it. They just remain for a short time. Some of them even go home during the dance. That is what they do. But, for as long as you were there, you were dancing. From the beginning you followed through to the end. Some of them do not even dance after a while. You were the only one left, and this did not go unobserved. You certainly spoke the truth. We won. That is why you were dancing with the scalp. Whatever good luck was to have befallen him [who?] we won for ourselves. You spoke well. You spoke the truth, aunt, when you said this.’

Beachcombing cannot help but think of Johann Schulz or whatever the surprised member of the wehrmacht was called. First, he has the misfortune to die at the hands of a Ho-Chunk warrior with a very sharp knife. Then, next, he finds his spirit in an eternity of playground taunts, serving the family of Mountain Wolf Woman. He probably would have preferred a walk on Linden Strasse and a sugared Berliner, but, hey, that’s the fortunes of war.

Any other scalping from the Second World War or more recent times? Beachcombing would love to know. Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com No serial killers please…

1st Nov 2010: Richard Dieterle, who has his own excellent site on the Ho-Chunk (Winebago) has this to say about the scalp dance: ‘it might be worth mentioning that in the old days they took the whole head. Mt Wolf Woman speaks of dancing with the scalp — the charm of having the whole head is that it can be, as they used to say, ‘made to sing its own song’. Indian dancing involves a lot of jumping up and down, and the muscles of the head’s jaws are, of course, totally relaxed. The result is that the jaw moves up and down, causing the mouth to open and close, so that it looks as if the head is singing to the dance music… Before I got to Vietnam, it used to be the practice to take ears as trophies, but the Army put its foot down on that practice. However, it can hardly be doubted that some scalps were taken.’ Beachcombing had wondered about Vietnam… Thanks a million Richard!


Why is there scalping?

The continued existence of scalping and resale markets is puzzling to economists. If tickets to major events are consistently undervalued, to the point that there is an entire industry based on resale, why do promoters continue to price tickets so low?

One argument is that event promoters are risk averse, preferring the certainty of a guaranteed sell-out over the uncertainty of potentially over-valuing tickets.

This fits with research that suggests people prefer to attend events in a packed-out venue, as opposed to a sparsely attended one. This incentivises event promoters to sell out venues as people’s demand for tickets depends, to some extent, on the demands of others.

There is also the somewhat idealistic idea that fairness stops event promoters from setting prices too high. This is the idea, often voiced in the media, that tickets should end up in the hands of “true fans”.


'The Revenant' and the Dark History of Scalping

Through a Native Lens is a column from film critic and citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Shea Vassar, who will dive into the nuance of cinema’s best and worst cases of Indigenous representation. This entry looks at the truth about scalping and how that’s depicted in The Revenant.

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant(2015) is a brutal look at survival in the 19th-century Western wilderness. Set in 1823, the film focuses on the tough Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who survives a near-fatal bear attack and is left for dead by the man who murdered his Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck). While the conversation around the release focused on DiCaprio’s performance, which finally landed him an Oscar win, as well as the cinematography by the talented Emmanuel Lubezki, it is time to talk about a recurring action that finds its way into the details of The Revenant.

Movies, books, and pretty much any narratives having to do with the wild, wild West have long associated the act of scalping as a strictly Native practice. It is a stereotype that lives forever in cinematic plots from titles like The Searchers (1956) and Hostiles (2017) and is perpetuated at football games of high schools around the country who hold onto their Chiefs, Indians, or Warriors mascot while yelling “Scalp ’em!” Most stereotypes are based on some fraction of truth and yes, some Native people utilized scalping in their war and fighting routines, but it is incorrect that only North American Indigenous warriors would use a sharp object to remove someone’s hair and skin from the top of their head.

In fact, scalping can be found in the European region as far back as 440 BC when certain groups of Scythians would use an ox bone to “scrape the flesh off the skin.” These prized possessions would then be hung as decorations on a warrior’s horse or sewn together to make clothing. “The best man is the man who has the greatest number,” Herodotus states in his iconic writing from 430 BC.

In colonial pre-America, scalping by non-Native people has not only been recorded but memorialized. In fact, the earliest publically funded statue of a woman in the US was of Hannah Duston holding onto a fistful of scalps. Duston was kidnapped by the Abenaki Nation in the late 1600s and was able to kill and escape from her captors. Prior to returning home, she made sure to grab and later show off her souvenirs. The recent statue debate around the nation has brought back the discussion of Duston. Some defend her actions, claiming that she was doing whatever it took to survive, while others understand the bigger settler-colonial picture that European invasion put on all Native communities at this time.

Sure, everyone scalped. Yet one major difference in the white versus Native scalping dilemma lies in who was specifically rewarded and even paid for this brutal action. In 1756, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania stated in his declaration of war against the Lenni Lenape (whose land the state of Pennsylvania still occupies), “For the scalp of every male Indian enemy above the age of twelve years, produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of one-hundred and thirty pieces of eight . . . for the scalp of every Indian woman produced as evidence of their being killed, the sum of fifty pieces of eight.”

This was followed by similar payment promises in Massachusetts in 1723 and continued as Americans expanded westward. An article in the October 24, 1897, edition of the Los Angeles Tribune entitled “Value of an Indian Scalp: Minnesota Paid Its Pioneers a Bounty for Every Redskin Killed” shares the price of Native scalps during the Indian Wars from years prior was twenty-five dollars, for a total payout of $7,870.06 for “Suppressing Indian War.” This means that over three-hundred Native scalps were not only collected but traded for cash rewards, and these are just the ones that were recorded.

These examples show that scalping should not just be attributed to one group or culture. And the vital difference is that while many participated in the gory act of scalping, one group was rewarded for their deeds while the other was marked with the dirty term of “savage.”

So how does this tie back into The Revenant?

Toward the beginning of the two-hour-and-thirty-six-minute runtime, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) are sitting with Glass, who is mangled from the bear attack. They are essentially waiting for him to die so he can receive a proper burial. However, that isn’t what ends up happening. While they sit, Bridger notices the hairless area of Fitzgerald’s head and asks him if the Ree (another name for the Arikara people) did that. He answers:

“Yeah, they done it. Took their sweet time, too. To start, I didn’t feel nothin’, just the sound of knives scrapin’ against my skull, them all laughin’ and hollerin’ and whoopin’ and what not … Then the blood came, cold, start streakin’ down my face, breathin’ it in, chokin’ on it.

That’s when I felt it. Felt all of it. Got my head turned inside out.”

According to Mairin Odle, a professor who studies cross-cultural body modifications including tattooing and scalping, cutting the skin off of an opponent’s head was not always done with the intent to kill. Scalping survivors was “visual evidence” of an attack that could be seen by those around. While the exact intent is unknown, some believe it was a warning to others or a way to embarrass the afflicted. Odle also states that even if colonial communities had not seen a person who had been scalped, their stories were told via newspapers or memoirs, making survivors of such attacks a sort of stock character for the time. “Survivors might be portrayed as gruesome novelties,” she writes, “but they were also intended to spark solicitude in 19th-century readers, with their scars implicitly justifying the extremes of their Indian-hating violence.”

Ironically, Fitzgerald becomes the clear violent antagonist moments later as he murders Hawk before lying to Bridger, convincing him to leave a dying Glass to the winter elements. This action coupled with the murder of Hawk motivates Glass to become a survivor himself, fighting for his life and nursing himself back to health as he searches for vengeance. This independent mission takes up a majority of the movie and is intense, to say the least.

Eventually, Glass does find himself on the heels of the man he is pursuing. After a short stay and a good meal at Fort Kiowa, he is reunited with Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson). The two set off to find Fitzgerald, but sadly, Fitzgerald finds and kills the captain while Glass is at a distance. As Captain Henry’s body is revealed, it becomes known that his scalp is missing, meaning that Fitzgerald committed the same atrocity that he himself had once experienced. This detail is never explicitly explained and could be interpreted in a variety of ways, however. The most obvious explanation would be to mislead Glass about who killed the captain.

While The Revenant is based on a true story, many of the details in regards to the actual story of Hugh Glass are embellished to create a compelling story of revenge, perseverance, and forgiveness. Despite this, Iñárritu creates a world where Native characters were represented correctly and ensured that by hiring cultural advisor Craig Falcon to work on set. He assisted the actors with the two Indigenous languages and even got to work as an on-screen extra. In an article by APTN National News, Falcon says “They hit it right on about ninety-seven-percent of the time. There were a couple of things that I didn’t agree with, but you know the director does have his artistic vision in his head of what he sees.” I’m curious if the three percent that Falcon is referring to has to do with this small detail of scalping and the reality that historically it was practiced by anyone and everyone.

That fact ties into the main message of The Revenant, which is not so subtly written on a sign seen hanging on a dead Pawnee man’s neck: “On est tous des sauvages,” which translates to “We are all savages.” And while the history of scalping might also allude to the idea that, yes, we are all the monsters, this is much too simple an explanation of the harsh colonization that hit each and every Native community in a different way. Of course, that is a whole separate issue that would need to be explored in a separate piece of writing.


Native History: Scalping of 10 Abenaki Celebrated Where Did it Begin?

This Date in Native History: On February 20, 1725, a group of 88 scalp hunters led by John Lovewell attacked a band of Abenaki Indians living in a wigwam near Wakefield, New Hampshire.

Motivated by state-sponsored programs that offered rangers payments for Indian scalps, the men tracked the Abenaki for 11 days then opened fire near midnight on February 20. Lovewell’s posse killed and scalped 10 men and received a bounty of 100 British pounds per scalp.

Part of Father Rale’s War—or the war between the Abenaki and the New Englanders—this incident marks one of the most celebrated times colonists scalped Indians in exchange for money.

Charles Banks Wilson, ‘Sequoyah’

𠇋ounty was a European innovation,” said Dean Snow, emeritus professor of anthology at Penn State University. “Scalping was used as financial credit for making the kill. It was the way to tally credits in warfare.”

Lovewell, who led three raids against the Abenaki, eventually earned the title of the most famous scalp hunter of the 18th century. Although he capitalized on the privatization of war, earning extravagant bounties for every Indian scalp he brought back, Lovewell was not the first colonist to practice scalping.

State-sponsored scalp hunting laws went into effect in the mid-1670s, John Grenier wrote in his 2005 book The First Way of War: American Warmaking on the Frontier.

In July 1689, at the start of King William’s War, the state of Massachusetts declared that each soldier would receive eight pounds out of the public treasury for each Indian scalp and that “whatever Indian plunder falls into their hands shall be their own.”

Less than a decade later, in 1697, a woman named Hannah Dustin became a Colonial heroine when she slayed her Abenaki captors while they slept� women and children—then redeemed their scalps for money. A bronze monument honoring Dustin stands in Haverhill, Massachusetts, her home state. Clutched in her right hand is a hatchet. Dustin was held in New Hampshire, where a granite monument stands. This one shows her with a hatchet and the scalps of the women and children.

This Hannah Dustin statue is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, her home state.

By 1702, Massachusetts offered 10 pounds for every scalp from a male Indian age 10 and older. That price increased to 20 pounds then 100, Grenier wrote. Scalps taken from women fetched 10 pounds each, while children under the age of 10 were sold into slavery with proceeds going to the scalp hunters.

“Scalp hunting provided both an effective and a financially rewarding means to kill, conquer and subjugate the Indian peoples of the Eastern Seaboard,” Grenier wrote.

Scalping, according to James Axtell, a former history professor at the College of William & Mary, was performed after a person was unconscious or dead. The executor, from a position behind the victim, pulled the hair back and used an obsidian blade to slice off a section of skin.

In some cases, scalps were displayed as badges of honor. Other times they were gifts or decorations, Axtell said. When there were bounties to be collected, scalps served as a way to count the dead.

One of the problems of scalping, however, was that taking a scalp did not guarantee death, Axtell said.

Craig Michaud/Wikimedia Commons

This statue is on the island in Boscawen, New Hampshire where Hannah scalped the Indians and escaped.

“It was fairly common to survive scalping,” he said. “There were medical journals that included articles about the care and management of a scalped head.”

The practice was similar to what Europeans did in warfare, Axtell said.

𠇎uropeans were always taking heads,” he said. “If you take the whole head, there’s no doubt that person is dead and will stay dead. Scalping is not torture, just trophy-taking.”

Despite the evidence of colonists scalping Natives, the word “scalp” is culturally loaded, and most Americans assume the practice is rooted in Native tradition. Natives argue that the practice was learned from Europeans—possibly from traders who arrived centuries before Columbus𠅊nd used in retaliation against the colonists.

Anthropologists cite evidence that Natives were taking scalps long before Columbus arrived, Snow said.

𠇎uropeans were busy burning each other at the stake or quartering people who were not yet dead,” he said. “Scalping was a prehistoric practice here among the Indians. We’ve got some evidence that it was going on 300 years before Columbus, but not in Europe.”

Axtell cites linguistic evidence to show that scalping originated among the Natives. Indian languages had words for scalping, along with customs that were unique to each tribe, he said.

Yet Native historians adamantly deny that First Americans took scalps before contact with Europeans. In a 2000 article that ran in the Boston Globe, representatives of two Eastern tribes denied the practice took place prior to the mid-1700s.

Mashantucket Pequot spokesman Buddy Gwin said scalping “was not a practice traditional to First Nations peoples” until becoming 𠇊 retaliatory act” against colonists. John Brown, of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Indians, said bodily mutilation was considered 𠇍ishonorable” until it was “learned” from Europeans.

In his 1969 manifesto, Custer Died for your Sins, Vine Deloria Jr. said Europeans likened Natives to wild animals.

“Scalping, introduced prior to the French and Indian War by the English, confirmed the suspicion that Indians were wild animals to be hunted and skinned,” he wrote. 𠇋ounties were set and an Indian scalp became more valuable than beaver, otter, marten and other animal pelts.”

Regardless of how it started, the practice of scalping was losing popularity by the early 1800s, Snow said. Although there were some reports of scalping during the Revolutionary War and bounties were being offered as recently as the Civil War, the act of scalping posed a moral dilemma.

𠇋y the end of the 1700s, practices that were widespread 50 years earlier were no longer considered appropriate,” he said.