For the third 12 months, the USA will formally observe Columbus Day alongside Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 9, 2023.
In 2021, the Biden administration declared the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day.
I’m a scholar of Colonial-Indigenous relations and suppose that formally recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day – and, extra broadly, Native People’ historical past and survival – is essential.
But, Indigenous Peoples Day and Columbus Day also needs to function a reminder of the violent previous endured by Indigenous communities in North America.
This previous – full with settlers’ brutal ways of violence – is usually ignored within the U.S.
My analysis on New England examines the essential function that settlers’ wars towards Native People performed of their colonization of the area.
This warfare typically focused Native American ladies and youngsters and was typically inspired by way of scalp bounties – that means folks or native governments providing cash in alternate for a Native American’s scalp.
Scalping describes the forceful removing of the human scalp with hair connected. The violent act is often carried out with a knife, however it will also be achieved by different means. Somebody can scalp victims who’re already useless, however there are additionally examples of individuals being scalped whereas they’re nonetheless alive.
Completely different teams have traditionally used scalping to terrorize folks.
In a number of Indigenous cultures in North America, scalping was a part of human trophy taking, which includes claiming human physique components as a conflict trophy. Scalps have been taken throughout warfare as shows of navy prowess or for ceremonial functions. However simply because scalping was practiced by some Native American societies, it doesn’t imply that it was practiced by all.
Eyewitness accounts, histories and even artwork and fashionable movies in regards to the American West have perpetuated the false concept that scalping is a uniquely indigenous apply.
White settlers’ vast use of scalping towards Indigenous peoples is much much less acknowledged and understood. In actual fact, Colonists’ use of scalping towards Native American folks doubtless accelerated this apply.
Numerous European American colonizers additionally scalped Native American folks from not less than the seventeenth by way of the nineteenth centuries. It was a approach to offer proof that somebody killed a Native American individual. A number of North American colonial powers, from the British to the Spanish empires, paid bounties to individuals who turned in scalps of killed Native People.
Scalp bounties in New England and California
Colonies, territories and states in what’s now the U.S. used scalp bounties extensively from the seventeenth by way of the nineteenth centuries.
Colonial governments in New England issued over 60 scalp bounties from the 1680s by way of the 1750s, usually throughout numerous conflicts between Colonists and Native People.
Massachusetts made the widest use of scalp bounties among the many New England Colonies within the 1700s.
Massachusetts’ lieutenant governor issued one of the vital infamous scalp bounty declarations in 1775. This declaration, known as the Spencer Phips Proclamation of 1755, gives a glimpse into how this brutal system labored.
“For each scalp of such Feminine Indian or male Indian below the Age of Twelve Years, that shall be killed and introduced in as Proof of their being killed …, Twenty Kilos,” the declaration reads.
This reward was a big amount of cash for Colonists, equal to greater than 5,000 kilos, or US$12,000 in at this time’s forex. The scalp of a male Native American might fetch two and a half instances this quantity.
Within the Colonial period, such violence was normalized by anti-Native American sentiment and a way of racial superiority amongst Colonists.
And the violent development was long-standing. As a number of historians level out, violence towards and scalping of Native People additionally performed a major function within the conquest of California in 1846.
One historian has known as California “the homicide state” within the 1800s, because the scalping and massacres of Native People accompanied white settlers’ taking Native American land. State and federal officers, in addition to a number of companies, supported this genocide by paying bounties to scalp hunters.
From a recent perspective, the United Nations would take into account the focused killing of Indigenous ladies and youngsters to be genocide.
Reminiscence and violence
Centuries later, California and Massachusetts have had completely different responses to their function in these sordid histories.
California has acknowledged “historic wrongdoings” and the violence dedicated towards the Indigenous individuals who stay within the state. In 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom arrange a a Reality and Therapeutic Council to debate and study the state’s historic relationship with Native People.
In Massachusetts, state officers have largely been silent on this concern. This locations Massachusetts extra in keeping with a lot of the USA.
That is true at the same time as Massachusetts, below the management of then-Gov. Charlie Baker, put a particular emphasis on genocide training within the college curriculum.
Legacies of scalping
The legacies of violence and scalping are deeply rooted and will be noticed in quite a few components of U.S. society at this time.
As an illustration, numerous communities, together with Lovewell, Maine, and Spencer, Mass., are named after scalp bounty hunters. Locals are sometimes not conscious of the historical past behind these names. Such city names, and the historical past of violence related to them, typically disguise in plain sight.
However in case you look carefully, from the writings of early Euro-American colonizers and American literature to fashionable sport mascots and state and city seals, the brutality wrought upon Indigenous folks stays on the forefront of U.S. tradition greater than 5 centuries after it started.