Who really started “Scalping? The Indians or another culture?
In my everyday travels online and off I come across many theories and ideas which people will believe because someone claims it’s true. Now I don’t know about you but I have never been one to believe what people tell me without seeing some proof in the way of pesky things called facts. Sure I could choose to live in a fantasy land, making up things to suit my cause a long the way but I really enjoy living in the real world and educating myself on facts not theories or lies twisted.
What is scalping?
Scalping is a practice of removing the scalp only from a person’s head using a sharp knife or other sharp object. In some cases the scalp may simply be torn away from the head itself. Some ancient cultures took scalps as trophies because carrying a head was too heavy.
So who really started scalping?
Some people in North America are so uneducated they believe that scalping was not something practiced by other cultures but this will show that the practice was done in Europe et al and then practiced by British & French to kill the First Nation people. While the First Nations also practiced this tradition, as noted below, it was at a much later time than those who were from overseas. The same people who believe that First Nations people were the only people to practice this barbaric tradition and that no Caucasian person could have every practiced this long before the First Nations people, also enjoy dressing up in grannies nice white night gown complete with fancy little pointed white dunce caps who enjoy burning crosses in the middle of the night.
Scalping practices have been traced back to 440 BC when it was practiced by the ancient Scythians of Eurasia. In fact, Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote about this group of people.
The Scythian soldier scrapes the scalp clean of flesh and softening it by rubbing between their hands, uses it thenceforth as a napkin. The Scyth is proud of these scalps and hangs them from his bridle rein; the greater the number of such napkins that a man can show, the more highly is he esteemed among them. Many make themselves cloaks by sewing a quantity of these scalps together.
The Alans, a nomadic people of Iranian origin and the ancestors of the Ossetians, was described by Ammianus Marcellinus. Scalping is still remembered in Ossetian folklore.
Around the 9th century, scalps were being taken in wars between Visgoths and the Anglo-Saxons, according to Abbé Emmanuel H. D. Domenech. Domenech’s sources included the decalvare of the ancient Germans, the capillos et cutem detrahere of the code of the Visigoths.
In the 10th century, historian and linguist, Friedrich Von Adelung, wrote that scalping was also practiced by several Slavic tribes as well.
Scalping was also practiced by the first people of North America in the 1600’s.
In the first two decades of the 1700’s, New France used scalping against the Natchez people & the Meskawaki people as did they.
During the six colonial wars with New Englad and the Iroquois Confederacy fighting and the Wabanaki Confederacy, for three quarters of a century which began with King William’s War in 1688. Once again ALL side participated in the barbaric practices and NOT only the First Nations people. The most famous captive during this time was Hannah Duston
Who was Hannah Duston?
Hanna was known at birth as Hannah Emerson. She was a mother of 9 children who was taken captive by the Abenaki Native Americans during King William’s war along with her newborn baby during a raid on Hazvehill in 1697. Twenty seven colonists were killed during the raid. Hannah was kept on an island on the Merrimack River in Boscawen, New Hampshire. During her detention she killed and scalped ten of the Aboriginal family members who were holding Hannah and her infant daughter, captive. Hannah was able to do this with the help of two other captives who also fought for their lives and freedom.
Hannah Duston is believed to be the first American woman to be honored with a statue. Hannah became part of folklore in the 19th century and was deemed the “mother of the American tradition of scalp hunting”. Some historians believe she only gained the notoriety because the United States of America used her story as a reason so much violence was perpetrated against the First Nations people as “defensive and virtuous” because it was done by mother.
In July 1689, Massachusetts created a “scalp bounty” during King William’s War. Later during Queen Anne’s War in 1703, a scalp bounty of $60 for each native scalp was being offered by Massachusetts Bay Colony. Again during Father Rale’s War (from 1722 – 1725), Massachusetts puts another bounty on only native families on August 8, 1722. A man known as Ranger John Lovewell is known to have led scalp-hunting missions with the most memorable being the Battle of Pequawket in New Hampshire.
The Governor of Massachusetts, William Shirley, issued a bounty to be paid to British-allied First Nations people for the scalps the First Nation men, women and children who were allied with the French. The bounty was issued during King George’s War after pressure when the British families were being killed by the French and the First Nation allies. New York passed a “Scalp Act” in 1747.
In Canada during Father Le Loutre’s War & the French and Indian War in Nova Scotia and Acadia, payments were offered by the French colonists to First Nations people to get the British scalps. British Governor, Edward Cornwallis, offered payment to the New England Rangers for First Nations scalps in 1749. During the wars, both sides were involved in the practice of scalping.
For those who still believe on the First Nations people in North America practiced scalping, read on.
On June 12, 1755, Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor, William Shirley offered a bounty for scalps – £40 for a male Indian scalp, and £20 for scalps of females or of children under 12 years old.
In 1756, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Robert Morris, in his Declaration of War against the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) people, offered “130 Pieces of Eight, for the Scalp of Every Male Indian Enemy, above the Age of Twelve Years,” and “50 Pieces of Eight for the Scalp of Every Indian Woman, produced as evidence of their being killed.”
American Revolutionary War & Lieutenant Governor & Superintendent of Indian Affairs
Lieutenant Governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs at Fort Detroit, was known by the nickname “Hair Buyer General” because it is believed by the American Patriots he both encouraged and paid First Nations people to scalp their own American settlers. When he was finally captured he was treated like a war criminal instead of a prisoner of war because of his encouragement of scalping. Some people do not believe there is proof to support the belief. American Patriots have also been known to participate in this practice.
Mexico puts out scalp bounties
The Mexican state of Sonorra, put a scalp bounty on the Apache in1835. The payment offered was – 100 pesos for scalp of a male ages 14 and older. Later the Mexican State of Chihuahua joined in and offered a scalp bounty on the Apache as well – 100 pesos per warrior, 50 pesos per woman and 25 pesos per child.
Harris Worcester wrote: “The new policy attracted a diverse group of men, including Anglos, runaway slaves led by Seminole John Horse, and Indians — Kirker used Delawares and Shawnees; others, such as Terrazas, used Tarahumaras; and Seminole Chief Coacoochee led a band of his own people who had fled from Indian Territory.”
Civil War Scalping
Even as recently as the American Civil War there were scalping by others. Confederate guerrillas who were led by a man known as “Bloody Bill Anderson” are said to have decorated their saddles with the scalps of Union soldiers they killed. Bloody Bill’s right hand man appears to have bee a man named “Archie Clement” who was known as the “chief scalper”.
Many cultures throughout the world practiced this barbaric practice and it cannot be claimed that scalping originated solely with the First Nations or Aboriginal people in North America. d it is true that the act was also practiced in North America, it is for the most part remembered as paid acts by the British, French and US governments.
I hope you have found this blog helpful in understanding who really started scalping and who didn’t.
Have a great day.
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