Thomas W. Strong, lithograph publisher, New York/Wikimedia Commons
“Death of Father Sebastian Rale of the Society of Jesus. Killed by the English and Mohawks at Norridgewock, Aug. 23, 1724;” frontispiece from Indian Good Book by Eugene Vetromile (1819-1880).

Native History: Scalping of 10 Abenaki Celebrated; Where Did it Begin?

Alysa Landry

Less than a decade later, in 1697, a woman named Hannah Dustin became a Colonial heroine when she slayed her Abenaki captors while they slept—10 women and children—then redeemed their scalps for money. A bronze monument honoring Dustin stands in Haverhill, Massachusetts, her home state. Clutched in her right hand is a hatchet. Dustin was held in New Hampshire, where a granite monument stands. This one shows her with a hatchet and the scalps of the women and children.

This Hannah Dustin statue is in Haverhill, Massachusetts, her home state.

By 1702, Massachusetts offered 10 pounds for every scalp from a male Indian age 10 and older. That price increased to 20 pounds then 100, Grenier wrote. Scalps taken from women fetched 10 pounds each, while children under the age of 10 were sold into slavery with proceeds going to the scalp hunters.

“Scalp hunting provided both an effective and a financially rewarding means to kill, conquer and subjugate the Indian peoples of the Eastern Seaboard,” Grenier wrote.

Scalping, according to James Axtell, a former history professor at the College of William & Mary, was performed after a person was unconscious or dead. The executor, from a position behind the victim, pulled the hair back and used an obsidian blade to slice off a section of skin.

In some cases, scalps were displayed as badges of honor. Other times they were gifts or decorations, Axtell said. When there were bounties to be collected, scalps served as a way to count the dead.

One of the problems of scalping, however, was that taking a scalp did not guarantee death, Axtell said.

This statue is on the island in Boscawen, New Hampshire where Hannah scalped the Indians and escaped. (Craig Michaud/Wikimedia Commons)

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