Marc Simmons: Scalping found among some New Mexico tribes

Marc Simmons on the practice of scalping in New Mexico:
When the Spaniards first visited the upper Rio Grande Valley, they found that the Pueblos had sacred scalp societies integrated into their religious structure. Santa Clara Pueblo north of Santa Fe maintained a formal Women’s Scalp Society that served as an arm of the War Society. Here, as elsewhere, the dried enemy scalps were ritually “fed.”

Navajos seem never to have indulged in taking the scalp. Their fear of handling the dead was too great. Their cousins the Apaches had something of the same taboo. Yet on some occasions, we know that Apaches resorted to scalping.

More often they were the victims of scalping — by Mexicans and Americans who had adopted the custom from other Indians. In the 1830s, the governors of Chihuahua and Sonora paid bounties on Apache scalps.

The Grant County Commission, which sat at Silver City, did the same thing in the mid 1880s. It declared a $250 bounty per Apache scalp. Ranchers near Las Cruces offered a private bounty of $500 for Geronimo’s top knot.

Get the Story:
Marc Simmons: Trail Dust: Scalping began as ancient Indian practice (The Santa Fe New Mexican 4/6)

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