"taking scalps in a sham-fight with the Indians"

Scalping, in which a sharp knife is used to remove part of a person’s scalp and hair, was an attendant part of battle for a number of Native American tribes. That of a slain enemy was a trophy, whilst that of a living one betokened superior might and, it was believed, gave the scalper control over the victim’s spirit. The practice was embraced with gusto by the settlers. Colonial officials placed bounties on the scalps of enemy tribe members during the many wars that erupted, and even Puritan ministers did not find their religious beliefs incompatible with sending their flocks off on scalping expeditions.   

Colonial heroine Hannah Duston scalping Native Americans ( (1847)
Public DomainColonial heroine Hannah Duston scalping Native Americans ( (1847) - Credit: Junius Brutus Stearns