Native American Scalping Knife



There has been much controversy on who first came up with the idea of scalping;
Native Americans or European colonists. There is no evidence that Europeans ever
practiced scalping before coming to the Americas, however, there is documentation of
Native American scalping at least as early as 1535 and bodies excavated at the ca. 1325
Crow Creek massacre indicate signs of scalping. Most scalping was done by one Native
American tribe against another. Regardless of who came up with the idea, the grizzly
practice of taking an enemy’s scalp was escalated by England’s lieutenant governor of
Detroit, Henry Hamilton. He became known as the “hair buyer”, rewarding the Ottawa,
Shawnee, and Delaware by giving them weapons, knives, and supplies in return for
scalps. Scalps were used as trophies to show a warrior’s battle prowess and they often
added them to war shirts or hung them on hoops. The collecting of scalps from dead
bodies was a way of verifying a “kill”, but sometimes a scalp was taken from a live person.
Scalping was not in itself a fatal wound, but victims would sometimes die of infection or
other wounds.. This example features five-pin, two-piece wood slab grip, with well-used
8″ period blade and old brass tacks; with blood rust on the still-sharp blade. Overall length
12 ½”. From the Robert Wheeler collection and still bearing his white identification
numbers. The practice of scalping continued with some Native American tribes until the
end of the 19th Century. Chief Spotted Tail was killed and scalped by Crow Dog in 1881
near the Rosebud agency.