"The powers of the heavens shall eat of my smoke": The significance of scalping in Pawnee warfare

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This study examines the cultural significance of scalping among the Pawnee Indians. Pawnee warriors took scalps to obtain spiritual power. When sacrificed in a special ceremony, scalps ensured the vitality and well-being of the Pawnee people. Sacrificing scalps also raised the status of men in Pawnee society and improved their prospects for marriage. Scalps were also taken to avenge the killing of tribal members by enemies, to strengthen diplomatic ties, or to end the mourning period of people who had lost a friend or relative. The quest for scalps could be a reason to launch military expeditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-104
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Military History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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