Carolyn's Query regarding Huron Scalping Practices

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Posted by Elaine on August 03, 1998 at 08:32:22:

Carolyn from Chicago, who has no e-mail access, asks the following:

"I have a squeamish and historical curiosity about the Indian practice of taking trophies ... I read once or was told that certain tribes didn't always scalp women captives. {The script from the Massacre Valley scene refers to Alice about to lose her scalp.} I'm not sure of the historical accuracy of this, but I think the Hurons even had a superstition against scalping blonde women. They thought it was bad luck. This would explain why the blonde haired young woman in the burned out settlement was not scalped. Instead, women captives, blonde or not, sometimes had their ears cut off for trophies, especially if they were wearing earrings ... "

Carolyn's question is whether or not the Huron had a superstitious aversion to scalping women, particularly blonde women, and was LOTM's depiction of Alice's near scalping accurate.

As far as I know, the Huron held no beliefs that would have precluded the scalping of women, blonde or otherwise. Huron villages were known to have scalps present that were taken from men, women, and children of various hair coloring. In perhaps one of the most sensationalized
incidents of a Huron scalping, Jane McCrea (a blonde), the fiancee of a Loyalist Officer, was murdered and scalped by a party of Hurons near Fort Edward in 1777. (Jane, a Scotsman's daughter, may have been an inspiration for Cooper's Cora & Alice characters. See - "The Mahican Channel")

Trophies, including ears, fingers, scalps, etc., were taken by northeastern Indians from victims, though usually they would have not been from captives, but from those who were killed or left for dead. The Indian who was about to take Alice's scalp in Massacre Valley was not Huron, but Ottawa. Likewise, the war party that killed the Camerons were Ottawa who were "moving fast." Perhaps their hurried pace explains why they did not take scalps. It would have been more likely for them to have done so.

Also, the presence of light haired people was not rare. With the increase of English, Dutch, German, Scots, etc... in North America, the "blonde" population was fairly high. They were by no means an oddity in the 18th century. Another factor to consider, specific mutilation of victims was sometimes connected to dreams. If a Huron warrior had a dream, for example, wherein his fingers were cut off, he would prevent his own fate by satisfying or realizing the dream's events through another person.

So, LOTM's scalping depictions were accurate.

Carolyn also asks Connie Boyer how she would have done the make-up had the script called for Cora or Alice to lose their ears?!!
How would you have done it, Connie?

Here is the link to Major George Bray's article on scalping that may be helpful.

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