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PKI Teaching Guide

Page 19 of 36

First Nations people did not have armies, but some cultures had military societies. Many people engaged in sporadic warfare with their neighbors for purposes of self-protection or acquiring resources, for revenge, but mainly for honor. In many societies, a man gained honor in battle. For example, among the Plains people, counting coup (to touch a living enemy and escape unharmed) was a more honorable act than to kill an enemy. Source:


Challenging the Historical Record: “Scalping” and First Nations People Source: ( http://www.kporterfield.com/aicttw/articles/lies.html )

The following is some info about the practice of scalping from Kay Porterfield who was a co- author of the Contributions of Indigenous Peoples Encyclopedia.

Fiction: American Indians have invented a number of positive things, but they also invented scalping.

Fact: American Indians probably learned the practice of scalping from the Europeans. Although archaeologists have found a few prehistoric human remains in the Americas that show evidence of cut marks on the skulls, they disagree about whether these marks are evidence of scalping. Absolutely no evidence exists that scalping was a widespread practice in the Americas before European contact. If it was practiced, it was done by very few tribes and then very infrequently.

On the other hand, scalping was a well-established tradition for Europeans. Ancient Scythians (Russians) practiced it. Herodotus, the Greek Historian, wrote of them in B.C. 440, "The Scythian soldier scrapes the scalp clean of flesh and softening it by rubbing between the 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."

Much later the English paid bounties for Irish heads. Because scalps were easier to transport and store than heads, Europeans sometimes substituted scalping for headhunting. Records show that the Earl of Wessex England scalped his enemies in 11th century.

In 1706 the governor of Pennsylvania offered 130 pieces of eight for the scalp of Indian men over twelve years of age and 50 pieces of eight for a woman’s scalp. Because it was impossible for those who paid the bounty to determine the victim’s sex – and sometimes the age – from the scalp alone, killing women and children became a way to make easy money.

During the French and Indian Wars and later during the war between the British and the Colonists, both the British and the French encouraged their Indian allies to scalp their enemies providing them with metal scalping knives.

The practice of paying bounties for Indian scalps did not end until the 1800’s.

From Field to Studio: The art of Paul Kane

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