February 20

This Day in History

General Interest

Feb 20, 1725:

American colonists practice scalping

In the American colonies, a posse of New Hampshire volunteers comes across a band of encamped Native Americans and takes 10 "scalps" in the first significant appropriation of this Native American practice by European colonists. The posse received a bounty of 100 pounds per scalp from the colonial authorities in Boston.

Although the custom of "scalping" was once practiced in Europe and Asia, it is generally associated with North American native groups. In scalping, the skin around the crown of the head was cut and removed from the enemy's skull, usually causing death. In addition to its value as a war trophy, a scalp was often believed to bestow the possessor with the powers of the scalped enemy. In their early wars with Native Americans, European colonists of North America retaliated against hostile native groups by adopting their practice of scalp taking. Bounties were offered for them by colonial authorities, which in turn led to an escalation of intertribal warfare and scalping in North America.

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