Why did Indians scalp their victims in the American Old West?

Contrary to popular myth, it was not a Native American custom but a colonial one first.

Scalping on the American continent was first instituted by the Dutch colonial government around New York when they actually set a bounty for killing Indians.

They came up with the idea of requiring a scalp as concrete evidence of a kill before paying a claim. Other colonial governments thought this was a great idea, and the English and French began using the same system to tally kills.

Eventually, even the Native Americans picked it up for their own internal bookkeeping.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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