shawnee scalping technique -- 7/10/17

Today's selection -- from The Apache Wars by Paul Andrew Hutton. In "Apacheria," the territory inhabited by Apaches in what are now the states of Arizona and New Mexico, there were decades of savage fighting among Apaches, Mexicans and Americans:

"In [1837 in the Mexican town of] Chihuahua City, the desperate owners of the once highly profitable Santa Rita del Cobre copper mines sent a messenger to Bent's Fort, far to the north on the Arkansas River. They requested the unique services of James Kirker. ... They offered Kirker one hundred thou­sand pesos (at that time equal to the same in dollars) to return from [his] exile [by the Mexican government] to Santa Rita with a company of men to fight the Apaches.

James Kirker, 1847 

"Kirker must have smiled, not only at the princely sum, but also at the official redemption offered to him. He set about finding some fighters. His right hand was Spybuck, a mixed-blood Shawnee born in Ohio but removed by the government to a Moravian mission in Kansas. He was an imposing figure at more than six feet tall with a great Roman nose, black hair, and a light complexion courtesy of his French father. His muscular frame was covered with the scars of deadly encounters with both man and beast. He was Kirker's bloodhound, renowned across the frontier for his prowess with a rifle as well as his tracking skills. Spybuck and Kirker had no trou­ble recruiting fifty strong men from Bent's Fort. The beaver trade had played out and men were looking for both adventure and silver in their pockets. It was a formidable band of cutthroats.

"In July 1846, Kirker achieved true infamy when he conspired with the leading citizens of Galeana, Chihuahua, to lure a mixed band of Chokonen and Nednhi Chiricahuas into town with 'prom­ises of a peace treaty and rations.' Negotiations were held between the Mexicans and the Apaches while Kirker and his men hid them­selves. A pledge of eternal peace was secured and to cement the bargain a liberal disbursement of whiskey was provided. On the morning of July 7, while the Apache men lay in a drunken stupor after a nightlong fandango, Kirker and his land pirates slaughtered 130 Chiricahuas.

"Spybuck supervised the scalping, for his Shawnees had perfected a rapid technique. A neat circle was cut at the crown of the victim's head. The scalper then grabbed hold of the Apache's long hair and pushed off with his feet against the victim's shoulders. A loud pop followed as the scalp came off. The scalps were taken to Spybuck, who treated them with some salt for preservation and attached them to long scalp poles. Each scalp was a debit against the trea­sury of the state of Chihuahua.

"Kirker marched his men into Chihuahua City in a grand pro­cession headed by the governor and several priests, with musicians escorting them into the town in triumph. They carried the Apache scalps before them on long poles. In the fiesta that followed, the priests ornamented the front of their church with the scalps. 'Op­posite the principal entrance, over the portals which form one side of the square, were dangling the grim scalps of one hundred and seventy Apaches,' noted an English visitor, 'who had been inhu­manely butchered by the Indian hunters in pay of the state.'"
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