THE TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY
THE INDIANS OF EASTERN
PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE
OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Proc. Amer. Philosophical Society, Vol. 82. No. 2, 1940
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THE TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY THE INDIANS OF
EASTERN NORTH AMERICA
University of Pennsylvania
(Communicated by Clark Wissler)
The Indians of eastern North America evinced great emotional satisfactions from
the prolonged tortures often inflicted upon war captives. Such behavior must be
evaluated in terms of the motivations imposed by the various cultures of the several
tribes, particularly with respect to the social and religious connotations of the war
patterns. This analysis suggests that many groups tortured primarily in retaliation
against the whites, who had immediately introduced the common European practise
of burning at the stake, and against the Iroquois. Both along the lower Mississippi
River and among the Iroquois torture seems to have had strong religious significance
with the concept of human sacrifice underlying the act. However the complexes were
otherwise so markedly unlike that direct diffusion between the Iroquois and lower
Mississippi River groups is not indicated. Both had definite, but different, parallels
with sacrifice in Middle America which may indicate a distant common origin for
SATISFACTIONs derived through the infliction of physical pain
upon a human being are of great psychological significance. In
our own culture pleasure arising from the suffering of another
is -not socially acceptable. When it is experienced, it must be
disguised, and even though openly manifest must be rationalized.
Torturing, literally twisting, was ingeniously developed at least
as early as Greek and Roman times, and perhaps reached its
height during the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. The practice
had obvious utilitarian motives. As a punishment for certain
crimes, torture probably acted as a strong influence for the
preservation of order. Of possibly more importance, first to
S the State and later to the Church, was the information obtained
on treason and heresy, from those subjected to it. In addition,
S the necessity for confession, and hence the ultimate salvation
of the soul of the victim, was one of the rationalizations of the
S Inquisition. Elaborate legal regulations were considered neces-
sary so that the infliction of torture would be purposeful and
S not merely represent individual brutality. Nevertheless, per-
PROCEEDINGS OF THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY,
VOL. 82, NO. 2, MARCH, 1940 151
Reprint Printed in U. S. A.
sonal satisfactions, not only to the actual torturers but also
vicariously to much of the population, were undoubtedly present
although culturally condemned.
Many American Indian tribes did not so inhibit the enjoy-
ment of physical suffering, and the pleasure of whole groups of
people was apparently unrestrained during the long tortures
inflicted upon a captive. However, it must be realized that overt
manifestations of behavior can be properly evaluated only after
an understanding of the underlying motivations, which implies
a detailed functional and historical analysis of the culture. Not
until the integration of torture in the culture as a whole is
known can the factors affecting individual acts of cruelty be
appreciated. The psychological significance of pleasure derived
from the sufferings of another is not within the scope of this
study, which is to determine, as far as the available material
permits, the integration of torture in the cultures under consid-
eration and the significance to the individual implied by such
There were two specific, material trophies of a successful war
party recognized by the eastern Indians. These were scalps and
captives. Attainment of honors through the coup as practised
by the Plains Indians was entirely unknown. Important as
these trophies were, their value did not outweigh the loss of a
man, and a leader who failed to bring back his party intact was
condemned as unsuccessful. Plunder was of little significance
as a motive for war since all the tribes were approximately at
the same level of material culture. Naturally, after white con-
tact, knives, guns and other European goods of great value to
the Indians were taken as booty. The horse was of slight
importance in the woodlands and did not become an object of
raids such as occurred on the plains of the west. Territorial
aggrandizement per se does not seem to have been a cause of
war, but rather to have resulted from tribal movements originat-
ing from other motives. The region was rich in natural re-
sources such as game, fish and edible plants, and agriculture was
practised, yet the population was sparse. Consequently, there
would have been little economic reason for the usurpation of
lands. (White interference changed the original war pattern
greatly, as all the tribes were brought into the Spanish, French
and English race for empire' (Trade relations for goods, slaves
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
and scalps were established, and it became advantageous for the
Indian to side with one or the other of the European nations
and to fight for his benefactor with the European weapons which
were provided. )
Supernatural elements were intimately associated with the
war complex over the entire region. (Purificatory rites were
usually required both before and after war, and there were many
strict prohibitions while actually on the war-path.> Sexual con-
tinence on the part of the warriors might be demanded during
the entire period of hostilities. A sacred bundle might be car-
ried to war by the leader, or the warriors might have individual
talismen for supernatural protection and assistance. Communi-
cations from the supernatural world through the medium of
omens or dreams were carefully noted and acted upon, even 'to
the extent of forcing a return from the war-path after days of
travel. (Failure would usually be attributed to lack of purity
on the part of the leader or some other member of the party.
Scalps and captives often had significance either in connection
with mourning and the appeasement of ghosts, or as offerings
to the supernatural.) In general, success in war meant the satis-
faction of supernatural compulsives which in turn led to social
recognition, and was about the only way such recognition could
(While scalps and captives were the basis of the war trophy
pattern of all the tribes within the region, distinctly different
attitudes towards these trophies may be discerned. Therefore,
torture, which was primarily one method of disposal of one
kind of trophy, that is captives,.can be evaluated properly only
in terms of the more inclusive war trophy complex.)
Historical considerations are obviously pertinent to a full
understanding of cultural phenomena, and especially so with
respect to traits associated with warfare, an activity implying
group contacts and often involving the assimilation of captives.
History reconstructed from a comparative analysis of cultures
at a specific point of time is merely suggestive, and must be
used cautiously to supplement conclusions based upon internal
evidence. This is particularly true where only small segments
of the total culture are under consideration, as in this paper.
However, it is hoped that detailed studies of enough more
material will eventually be forthcoming so that evidence which
can now be treated as no more than historical possibility will
be confirmed, thereby further clarifying the specific behavior
patterns under discussion here.
The utilization of actual historical records is an entirely
different matter. In so far as these either contain descriptions
of torturing or fail to mention it at all, they are important and
have been discussed at some length.
The accounts contained in the Spanish, French, English and
American records of exploration, colonization, trading and mis-
sionary activity in the Southeast are almost the sole sources
of information. By the first half of the nineteenth century the
aboriginal population had been thoroughly defeated and the
remnants removed to reservations. Consequently, there are no
full accounts of any of the cultures by competent ethnologists,
except in so far as traits survived almost inextricably mixed
with white and negro elements. The entire war complex, in-
cluding torturing, obviously would remain as nothing more than
a vague tradition. Although the early records of untrained
observers cannot be expected to furnish fully satisfactory ac-
counts of cultural details, nevertheless some are reasonably full
and often surprisingly acute. Religious beliefs, social organiza-
tion and ceremonial procedures are poorly described, but on the
other hand the torture of captives is a trait which would seem
to be particularly subject to casual observation, at least in its
main outlines. The conflict between the invading whites and
the "barbarians" was of constant concern to the missionaries,
colonists and traders. The brutalities practised upon anyone
so luckless as to fall into their hands were an ever present
threat. We might well expect an overdrawn picture of Indian
cruelties to serve as an excuse to wipe out these "savages" who
resisted the depredations of the whites, and in general this may
well be true. On the contrary, understatements of the dangers
would be unusual except possibly in a few cases of colonization
Additional sources may be tapped although it is unlikely
that further data of particular significance will be forthcoming.
Archmological evidence may possibly be uncovered which will
throw some light on the subject of torture, but it should be
realized that too much cannot be expected. Little can be de-
duced from charred bones and burnt stakes which will permit
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
the reconstruction of torture or human sacrifice. Scalps have
not been found in the mounds, and it is unlikely that they will
be uncovered. Most of the material associated with the war
complex was of a perishable nature, thus precluding the possi-
bility of archaeological evidence.
The infliction of pain upon another person may not be con-
fined solely to the treatment of war captives, and other such
acts may have a bearing upon any final psychological interpre-
tation of torture. However, it has been thought desirable to
limit this paper to the torture of war captives. Such behavior
as individual brutality to wife, child or other person, institu-
tionalized punishment for adultery or other crimes, infliction of
pain in ceremonies such as initiation rites, and self-torture of
the Plains Sun Dance type, are not of immediate concern.
The specific region under consideration is that commonly
known as the Southeastern Culture Area of North America.
This may be defined geographically as lying east of the Missis-
sippi River and south of the northern parts of Virginia and
Kentucky. In addition, the southern Caddoans of Louisiana
and eastern Texas and the Iroquois of Pennsylvania and New
York have been included. Material pertaining to the adjacent
groups, such as the Algonkians, the Plains Area and Middle
America, will be used only in so far as it contributes to the
clarification of the problem. The material has thus been limited
to a geographically contiguous area within which actual contacts
of all the groups can be predicated and the uncertainties inherent
in spatially discontinuous distributions eliminated. The various
manifestations of torture have been correlated, as far as the
data permit, with other phases of the war complex and the
sacrifice of human life. Not only is an essentially continuous
distribution of torture involved, but it seems to have been absent
in adjacent regions except where it had penetrated in relatively
recent times as a retaliation against enemies who used it.
Unfortunately the material is extremely scanty for many
tribes, and for others which would normally be included, such
as the Atakapa and Chitimacha, the insufficiency of data has
compelled their exclusion from consideration.
I. DESCRIPTIVE MATERIAL ON TORTURE
Detailed descriptions of the tortures inflicted by the Indians
of Southeastern North America are relatively rare; in most
cases their acts are merely referred to as cruel or horrible with-
out any indication whether or not prolonged tortures rather
than either brutal slaying or mutilation of the dead were in-
volved. In striking contrast to this situation is the abundance
of detailed accounts of the prolonged agonies inflicted by the
Northern Iroquois upon their enemies.'"
The following descriptions, arranged in approximately chron-
ological order, include any behavior towards captives which
might indicate that torturing was involved. As the absence of
the practise at a particular time and place is also pertinent to
an understanding of the torture complex in the region, data
which indicate that it was lacking have been included.
The first unquestioned landing of the Europeans upon the
mainland of the New World was the expedition of Ponce de
Leon which first touched Florida in the neighborhood of the
present St. Augustine 2 and then coasted southward without at-
tempting to make land again owing to the hostility of the natives.
While off the southwest tip of the Florida peninsula Ponce de
Leon was addressed in Spanish by an Indian,' thus making it
*apparent that the atrocious cruelty of the Spanish for some
twenty years in the West Indies had become known to the in-
habitants of the mainland prior to the discovery of the continent
by the whites. Their determined resistance and lack of super-
stitious fear of the white man indicated, according to Lowery,
an appreciation of the treatment to be expected.4
During the succeeding years numerous expeditions such as
those of Miruelo and Cordova which were driven off by the
Indians,5 Alvarez de Pineda which remained some forty days at
a large town at the mouth of a great river,6 Gomez,7 Verazzani,8
1 The records are not clear as to the extent of prior explorations, including those
of the Cabots and Americus Vespucci. For a discussion of the whole problem see
Lowery, 1911, especially pp. 124, 127, 130 and Winsor, II, p. 232.
2 Fairbanks, p. 16.
3 Lowery, 1911, p. 142.
4 Lowery, 1911, p. 144.
5 Lowery, 1911, p. 149.
6 Mississippi, Lowery, 1911, p. 150-Mobile Bay, Swanton, Southeastern Indians,
7 Lowery, 1911, p. 169.
s Vcrarzanus, John, Relation of.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
and most likely other unauthorized and therefore unrecorded
explorations were in all probability largely in the nature of
slave raids.9 Scant information on the aboriginies is found in
any of these accounts but they do emphasize the possible extent
of Spanish cruelty. The treatment accorded the inhabitants 10
is perhaps typified by the following action of an expedition sent
out by Ayllon in 1519:
Although Ayllon had charged Gordillo to cultivate friendly relations with
the Indians of any new land he might discover, Gordillo joined with
Quexos in seizing some seventy of the natives, with whom they sailed
away.. . 11
An account of the Indians 12 met by a later Ayllon expedition
to the east coast obtained from a captive does not specifically
refer to torture but the following description is perhaps indica-
tive of its absence:
The inhabitants of this country do not eat human flesh; the prisoners of
war are enslaved by the victors."1
Much of what later was assumed to be first contact with the
Indians had unquestionably been preceded by marauding expedi-
tions which would account for the immediate hostility towards
With Cabeza de Vaca's account of the Narvaez expedition
of 1527 we begin to find more solid ethnographic fact. Narvaez
and his 600 colonists and soldiers probably landed just west of
Tampa Bay.'" Probably many unknown Spaniards survived the
destruction of this expedition and lived for many years among
the Indians. The effect of such residence, as well as the journey
of the four men to the Pacific Coast, must have had definite
repercussions on the aboriginal cultures. Vaca, who has fur-
nished some excellent ethnographic material on the tribes he
encountered, fails to mention torture, although he refers to
SLowery, 1911, p. 171, suggests that many such unrecorded raids as far north
as Chesapeake Bay in quest of slaves may have occurred.
to Identified as Cusabo by Swanton, Early History, p. 131.
11 Winsor; II, p. 239. Also see Martyr, II, p. 256.
12 Identified as Siouans by Swanton, Early History, p. 42.
18 Martyr, II, p. 261.
14 Mooney's conclusion probably typifies the situation along the entire coast:
"Jamestown Colonists landed among a people who already knew and hated the
whites." Powhatan Confederacy, p. 129.
15 For a discussion of this location see Lowery, 1911, pp. 453-455.
Indian slaying of Spaniards and of other Indians, and makes
observations on war practices.16
John Ortis, a member of the Narvaez expedition, was found
twelve years later by De Soto soon after he landed in Florida.
From him comes probably the earliest account of the treatment
of a captive by the Indians of the New World, in this case
Ueita commanded to bind John Ortis hand and foot upon four stakes
aloft upon a raft, and to make a fire under him, that there he might be
Almost an identical account is given by Garcilaso de la Vega:
S. .cacique, who, enraged that Ortis could endure so many divers hard-
ships, ordered, on a day of entertainment, that they should kindle a fire
in the middle of the public square, that they should put a griddle upon
the fire; and that they should put his slave upon it, in order to burn him
Neither Biedma, Ranjel, nor De Soto refer to this incident
although they all speak of finding Ortis. He was saved through
the intervention of the wife and daughter of the Chief.
Three companions had been seized with Ortis but had not
survived the initial abuse:
Harriga guarded with care his prisoners, in order to increase by their
death the pleasures of a feast which he was to celebrate, in a few days,
according to the custom of the country. The time of the ceremonies ar-
rived, he commanded that the Spaniards, entirely naked, should be com-
pelled to run by turns from one extremity of the public square to the
other, that at times arrows should be shot at them, in order that their
death might be the slower, their pain the more exquisite, and the rejoicing
more noted and of longer duration.20
Apart from the above there is no mention of Indian torture
in any of the De Soto chronicles.21 This is quite amazing for if
torture in any form had been practised there is every reason to
assume that it would have been noted and commented upon by
the Spaniards. Swanton in discussing this striking omission
16 Bandelier, Ad. f., The Journey of Alvar Munez Cabeza de Vaca.
17 According to Swanton, Early History, p. 379.
18 Elvas, p. 125.
19 Vega, pp. 259-260.
20 Vega, p. 259.
21 The Indians of Alabama mimicked throwing a man into the fire. As they
first hit him on the head, it does not resemble torture, Elvas, p. 165.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
. . I am inclined to think it indicates that much of this cruelty was
of later introduction.22
Although accounts of treatment accorded to those captured are
not common in the chronicles, yet in several cases of Spaniards
taken by the Indians there are no suggestions of torture.2" An
observation on the treatment of prisoners by the Guachoia 24 is
But they principally exercised their cruelty upon the suckling infants
and upon old men; they first tore from the latter their clothes, and shot
them to death with arrows which they generally aimed at the parts which
show the difference of sex. As for the infants they threw them by the
legs into the air, and shot them to death with their arrows before they
fell to the ground.25
SThis is an excellent description of brutality without torture and
suggests that had the torture practices noted more than 150
years later in the lower Mississippi region been present they
would have been seen and commented upon by the Spaniards
with De Soto.'
The absence of reference to torture by the Indians does not
complete the picture for the "Civilized" invaders unquestion-
ably did practise it on the Indians for the customary European
motives of abstracting information or supplies and as a punish-
ment for refractory behavior. Some examples of this seem
All the rest he commanded to be put to death, being tied to a stake in
the midst of the market-place; and the Indians of Paracossi did shoot
them to death.26
This treatment was a punishment for revolt. During the search
. and he brought four or five Indians, and not one would show any
knowledge of his lord's village or discover it, although they burnt one
of them alive before the others, and all suffered that martyrdom for not
At Coste De Soto seized some chiefs:
22 Swanton, The Ethnological Value, p. 576.
23 Vega, p. 327.
24 Identified by Swanton at Natchez, Belation of the Southeast, p. 63.
25 Vega, p. 436.
26 Elvas, p. 133. Also see Ranjel, p. 76.
27 Ranjel, p. 97. Also see Elvas, p. 42.
. . and he threatened them, and said that he would burn them all be-
cause they had laid hands on the Christians.28
While wintering the first year at Apalachee, Indians ambushed
them often and:
. . although the Spaniards pursued them and burned them they were
never willing to make peace. If their hands and noses were cut off they
made no more account of it. .. .29
Biedma mentions that they came to a large river which entered
into the bay called Chuse and:
In the meanwhile the Indians killed one of the governor's guards. The
governor punished the cacique for it, and threatened to burn him alive
if he did not deliver up the murderers.3
While he was west of the Mississippi:
This Indian led him two days out of the way. The Governor commanded
to torture him.31
At the time of boat building in the Natchez area the Governor
feared a plot by some visiting Indians and consequently he
ordered one to be detained secretly:
The Governor commanded him to be put to torture, to make him confess
whether the Indians practise treason or no.82
Furthermore the Spaniards had fierce dogs used to track
down and then tear the natives to pieces.33 It is not difficult to
believe that De Soto employed such methods on the Indians
many times not recorded in the narratives. The stake and fire
were common in Europe at that period. From the time of the
earliest settlements in the West Indies Spanish brutality was a
fact. Champlain on his trip to the West Indies and Mexico in
1599 not only speaks of Spaniards burning Indians but even
furnishes a sketch showing it.34
Following De Soto there was a period of years during which
many shipwrecks occurred on the southern end of Florida and
the survivors were either slain or enslaved.35 Among them was
28 Ranjel, p. 110.
29 Ranjel, p. 80.
30 Biedma, p. 102. The threat against the cacique but not the mode of punish-
ment is mentioned in Elvas, p. 199.
31 He confessed and was cast to the dogs. Elvas, p. 199.
32 Elvas, p. 204.
33 Ranjel, p. 60, and Vega, p. 275, give descriptions of this.
34 Champlain, I, p. 63 and Plate LX.
35 Lowery, 1911, p. 352.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
a boy, Fontaneda, who lived some seventeen years with the
Indians until finally rescued in 1566. From him we have almost
the only available account of the Calusa. No torture is men-
tioned and the following suggests its absence:
For the natives who took them (shipwrecked Spaniards) would order
them to dance and sing; and as they were not understood and the Indians
themselves are very artful-they thought the Christians were obstinate,
and unwilling to do so. And so they would kill them, and report to the
cacique that for their disobedience they had been slain.36
In 1559 a fleet of 13 vessels and 1500 people led by Tristan
de Luna .attempted to colonize northeastern Alabama after a
preliminary exploration of the coast in 1558. They covered
much of the Gulf Coast by land and water and finally fortified
a settlement on Pensacola Bay." Remains of towns destroyed
by De Soto were seen and stragglers from his army found. An
attempt was made in 1560 to penetrate into the interior in ac-
cordance with the original plans. They met with the Cocas 88
and aided them in a war against their enemy, the Napochies."
In a deserted Napochies village the Cocas:
. . went from house to house looking for someone like infuriated lions
and they found only a poor strange Indian . they tortured the poor
Indian till they left him dying.40
This seems to have been rather a slaying than torture. Lowery
uses the expression despatchedd with blows" for the act.41
This colonization scheme failed, and when in 1561 Villafane
offered to take those vwho wished to go with him to Saint Elena,
the colony was deserted.42 Villafane explored the coast of
Georgia and Carolina for a short time but no contacts were
made with the natives.48
French Hueguenots under the command of Ribault reached
Florida 44 in 1562 and coasted northward to a large river named
by them the River May and now identified as the St. Johns
River." Here they had friendly contact with the Indians and
86 Fontaneda, p. 22.
37 Lowery, 1911, pp. 358-359.
8s The Coosa, a Creek tribe according to Swanton, Early History, p. 230.
3s A Choctaw speaking tribe according to Swanton, Southeastern Indians, p. 5.
40 Swanton, Early History, p. 237-citing Davila Padilla, Historia, pp. 205-217.
41 Lowery, 1911, p. 367.
42 Lowery, 1911, p. 374.
48 Lowery 1911, pp. 374-375.
44 Near the present St. Augustine, Lowery, 1905, p. 32.
45 Swanton, Early History, p. 48.
then proceeded north, finally establishing a small settlement at
Port Royal near the present Beaufort, South Carolina,46 which
was soon abandoned. Little data on the Indians is found in
the account of this voyage except that they were friendly and
had greeted the French ". . very gently and with great
A second French expedition under LaudonniBre, who had
accompanied Ribault previously, erected a fortified settlement
on the St. Johns River in Florida in 1564. The artist Le Moyne
accompanied this colony and his illustrations and descriptions
together with the descriptions of LaudonniBre furnish valuable
material on the Timucua Indians. In spite of much informa-
tion on war practices and ceremonials, torturing is not noted.
On the contrary there is much to suggest its absence. A cer-
tain chief is spoken of as:
S. a man cruell in warre, but pitiful in the execution of his furie. For
hee tooke the prisoners to mercy, being content to mark them on the left
arme with a great market like unto a seale, . then hee let them goe
without any more hurt.48
Immediate death for those taken in war was apparently
customary 9 although some, particularly women and children,
might be taken prisoners.50 Charlevoix sums up the Florida
Indians, not however from personal experience, as follows:
They are not as cruel to their prisoners as those of Canada; and although,
like the latter, cannibals, they do not carry inhumanity so far as to make
the sufferings of a miserable wretch a spectacle of pleasure, or torture an
art. Women and children taken in war, they are satisfied with keeping
in slavery; men they immolate to the sun, and deem it a religious duty
to eat the flesh of these victims.51
Ribault arrived in Florida on a second voyage in 1565 bring-
ing much needed aid to the year-old colony but was not able to
prevent its destruction by the Spanish under Mendenez. In
1567 Gourges led a French expedition to avenge the massacre
and succeeded in destroying a Spanish settlement in the vicinity
of the present St. Augustine. Both of these expeditions used
46 Lowery, 1905, p. 402-Swanton, Early History, p. 49.
47 Ribault, p. 101.
48 LaudonniBre, p. 458.
48 Le Moyne, p. 7-LaudonniBre, pp. 413, 494.
50 LaudonniBre, pp. 464, 469.
1i Charlevoix, History and General Description, I, p. 138.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Indian allies in their ruthless warfare but there are no accusa-
tions of Indian cruelty.5"
SMendenez made extended explorations along the coast of
'VFlorida and the Pardo expedition penetrated far into the in-
terior of Georgia. Forts and Missions were established by force
of arms. Little ethnography is found in the records and there
are no accounts of Indian cruelty." The Missions established
by Mendenez among the Calusa and Timucua of Florida, and
among the Guale of the coast of Georgia, suffered many priva-
tions and sustained much conflict with the Indians in which
numerous whites were slain. Any idea of retaliation by torture
on the part of the Indians was apparently lacking. The Jesuit
Missionaries left on Chesapeake Bay in 1570 initially had peace-
ful relations with the natives but were later slaughtered, as far
as can be ascertained, without torture. When Mendenez at-
tempted to succor this Virginia Mission in 1571 he caught eight
Indians whom he hung for the murder of the Jesuits."
Upon the return of the first voyage sent to America under
the command of Captain Barlowe, at the instigation of Sir
Walter Raleigh in 1584, the Indians in the vicinity of Pamlico
Sound, North Carolina, were reported as kind and loving.55
While little weight can be attached to a statement which was
propaganda for colonization, nevertheless there is no indication
in any of the accounts of the later voyages in 1585, 1586 and
1587 under Lane and White or in the descriptions of Hariot, all
of which contain excellent ethnographic material, of torture
being practised by the Indians.
The Indians of Guale, Georgia, rose in rebellion against the
Spanish Missions in 1597 and killed many priests and Chris-
tianized Indians, apparently without torture except in the case
of a Father who had been kept as a slave and then:
"They tied him to a post and put much wood under him." 56
He was spared finally and exchanged for a prisoner held by the
52 For an account of this French-Spanish conflict see LaudonniBre, A Notable
Historic, and Lowery, 1905.
53 See Lowery, 1905, for an account of these explorations.
54 For a discussion of these Missions see Lowery, 1905, pp. 339 f.
55 Barlowe, The First Voyage.
56 Swanton, Early History, p. 87-citing Bareia.
57 For an account of this rebellion see Swanton, Early History, pp. 85 f.-citing
The accounts of Spelman, Percy, Strachey, Smith, and later
Beverley, of the English settlements in Virginia give no indica-
tion that any of the Southeastern Algonkians used torture on
captives. Fear on the part of the whites of suffering such a
fate seems to have been entirely absent. There is however a
suggestion that these Indians were familiar with the Iroquois
For the heads of all those rivers, especially the Pattawomekes, the Pau-
turuntes, the Sasquesahanocks, the Tockwoughes, are continually tor-
meted by them (the Massawomekes, or Five Nation Iroquois) : of whose
crueltie, they generally complained. .. 5
Percy likewise reports that Powhatan:
. . described also upon the same Sea (to the west), a mighty Nation
called Pocoughtronack, a fierce Nation that did eate men, and warred
with the people. . .9
Men were evidently seldom taken captive by Southeastern
Algonkians but Smith remarks:
Yet the Werowances, women and children, they put not to death, but
keepe them captives.60
Slaughter of all enemies seems to have been the more general
. . they destroy man, woman, and child, to prevent all future resent-
Smith, and later Beverley, emphasized that neither age nor
sex was spared in the massacre of the English instigated by
Oppechancanough in 1622 but that all were immediately slain.62
Smith further elaborates upon this tragedy of 1622:
. .they fell again upon the dead bodies, making as well as they could
a fresh murder, defacing, dragging, and mangling their carkases into
many peeces, and carrying some parts away in derision, . .63
The resentment on the part of the Indians indicated by such
behavior would surely have resulted in torturing if the practice
had been known to them.
58 Smith, A Map of Virginia, p. 105.
59 Percy, p. 49.
so Smith, A Map of Virginia, p. 106. Also mentioned by Strachey, p. 107.
61 Beverley, p. 150.
62 Smith, The Generall Historie, p. 358. Beverley, p. 40.
63 Smith, The Generall Historie, p. 359.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Smith himself cites a case where he applied torture to an
The Counsell concluded, that I should terrific them with some torture, to
know if I could know their intent. The next day, I bound one in hold
to the maine Mast: and presenting sixe Muskets . forced him to desire
life. . I affrighted the other, first with the rack, then with Mus-
kets; . .
A letter dated 1611 from the Rev. Alexander Whitaker, who
was in Virginia, attempts to dissuade Dale from exploration
by citing the dangers:
. . otherwise he (Powhatan) threatened to destroy us after a strange
manner. First hee said hee would make us dumbe and then kill us. . .65
Had torture been practised it would have made a much more
Exploration of Carolina by Bland in 1650 seems to have
been without any fear of torture from the Nottaway, Meherrin
and Tuscarora, all of whom were Iroquois speaking. Lederer
in his travels during 1669 and 1670 does not seem to have ob-
served torturing. By 1674 English traders were penetrating
far inland and one of them, Gabriel Arther, was captured by
the Tomahitans, who were probably Yuchi, and:
. tied . to a stake and laid heaps of combustible canes about him
to burn him. . 66
In a letter dated 1675 a Bishop of Cuba describes the Indians
of Florida but gives only one incident, and that from hearsay,
which might be construed as torture. This referred to a tribe
along the northern borders of Florida, the Chichimecos, iden-
tified by Swanton as probably Yuchi.67
. so savage and cruel that their only concern is to assault villages,
Christian and Heathen, taking lives and sparing neither age, sex nor
estate, roasting and eating victims.68
As this is at best a second-hand account of a non-Christian tribe
by a Spanish Bishop, too much weight cannot be attached to it.
Furthermore, straight cannibalism rather than torture may be
64 Smith, A True Relation, p. 67.
65 Bushnell, Virginia from Early records p. 36.
66 Alvord, p. 218.
67 Wenhold, p. 4.
68 Wenhold, p. 11.
An account of a war between the Apalachee and the Yuchi
contained in a letter dated 1678 does not suggest the use of
torture on the vanquished Yuchi by the Apalachee.69
It is only with the account by Lawson of his journey in
Carolina in 1700 that we get any definite torture ri'-flitd to in
this s.ctioii. He states that few prisoners of the Saponi, who
were Eastern Siouans, escaped having lighted splinters stuck
in their bodies, and then being made to dance around a fire until
dead.70 Failure to so treat prisoners in one case resulted in a
terrific storm sent by the "devil." 71 Speaking in general of the
Indians of North Carolina Lawson says they invented horrible
cruelties prolonged as long as possible. Ignited pine splinters
stuck in the body of the victim, dancing, derision, buffeting until
death, and final dismemberment were usual.7' A Huguenot trav-
eler met the Saponi in 1715 and accuses them of inhumanly
murdering all their prisoners, but does not specifically describe
torture.7 Criminals were cruelly executed by a special official
in front of the rejoicing population.74
Lawson was himself killed by the Tuscarora in 1711. His
companion Graffenreid, who was spared, does not report the
method used other than to say that he was condemned to have
his throat cut with his own razor."
In 1704 the English waged a war of extermination against
the Indians during which the Apalachee tied some other Indians
to stakes and burned them alive."
The earliest descriptions of Creek torturing are contained
in Dr. Hewit's accounts of the cruelties practised upon captives
by the Yamassee who werrAthenraidingAie Spanish settlements
in Florida fro-ri-n eir home on the north side of the Savannah
River ust prier--to -thewar 715: -----
The Yamassees possessed a large territory lying backward from Port-
Royal island, on the north-east side of Savanna river, .... For many
years they had been accustomed to make incursions into the Spanish ter-
ritories, and to wage war with the Indians within their bounds. In their
return from those southern expeditions, it had been a common practice
69 Swanton, Early History, pp. 299 f.
70 Lawson, p. 47.
71 Lawson, p. 49.
72 Lawson, pp. 197 f.
78 Fontaine, p. 279.
74 Lawson, pp. 195 f.
75 Williamson, I, pp. 285-286.
76 Swanton, Early History, p. 123-citing a letter from a Spanish Governor.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
with them to lurk in the woods round Augustine, until they surprised
some Spaniard, and brought him prisoner to their towns. On the bodies
of these unfortunate prisoners they were accustomed to exercise the most
wanton barbarities; sometimes cutting them to pieces slowly, joint by
joint, with knives and tomahawks; at other times burying them up to
the neck underground, then standing at a distance and marking at their
heads with their pointed arrows; and, at other times, binding them to a
tree, and piercing the tenderest parts of their naked bodies with sharp-
pointed sticks of burning wood, which last, because the most painful and
excruciating method of torture, was the most common among them.77
However, the Yamassee and their allies united with the
Spanish to drive out the English in 1715. The English captves
-were. sometimes tortured:
John Cochran, his wife, and four children; Mr. Bray, his wife, and two
children; and six more men and women, having found some friends
among them, were spared for some days; but, while attempting to make
their escape from them, they were retaken and put to death. Such as
had no friends among them were tortured in the most shocking manner,
the Indians seeming to neglect their progress towards conquest on pur-
pose to assist in tormenting their enemies. We forbear to mention the
various tortures inflicted on such as fell into their merciless fangs.78
After the English had driven the Yamassee south into Flor-
ida they still continued raiding into Carolina:
One party of them catched William Hooper, and killed him by degrees,
by cutting off one joint of his body after another until he expired. An-
other party surprised Henry Quinton, Thomas Simmons, and Thomas
Parmenter, and, to gratify their revenge, tortured them to death.79
No other cases of torture are found in the documents col-
lected by Carroll, and none of the ones cited above were reported
by eye-witnesses. The Creek and Cherokee wars, which were
extremely bitter against the whites, did not bring out any inci-
dents of torturing.
The French explorers and missionaries gradually pushed
westward from the St. Lawrence during the 17th century and
journeyed down the Mississippi River. Marquette and Joliet in
1673 made many ethnological observations, especially on the
Illinois, but without noting any torture practices.
Tonty's accounts of La Salle's journey down the Mississippi
starting in 1678, and of the search until 1691 for La Salle after
77 Carroll, I, pp. 189-191.
7s Carroll, I, p. 197.
79 Carroll, I, p. 199.
his fatal attempt to find the mouth of the river, lack any refer-
ence to torture by the tribes along the lower reaches of the
Mississippi or among the Caddo to the west. Illinois 8 and
Iroquois 81 were, on the contrary, both accused of the practice.
Hennepin, who accompanied La Salle part of the time, likewise
reported torturing by the Iroquois,82 but also does not refer to
it further south. La Salle's attempt to locate the mouth of the
Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico is described in the accounts
of Joutel from which most of the early ethnography of the
Caddo of eastern Texas and Louisiana is derived. The Hasinai
apparently slew most of their enemies immediately. There is,
however, an incident of a woman captive who:
S.. was kept to fall a sacrifice to the rage and vengeance of the women
and maids; who, having armed themselves with thick sticks, sharp pointed
at the end, conducted that wretch to a by-place, where each of those
furies began to torment her, sometimes with the point of their staff, and
sometimes laying on her with all their might. One tore off her hair,
another cut off her finger, and every one of those outrageous women
endeavored to put her to some exquisite torture, to avenge the death of
their husbands and kinsmen, who had been killed in the former wars;
so that the unfortunate creature expected her death stroke as mercy.
At last, one of them gave her a stroke with a heavy club on the head,
and another ran her stake several times into her body, with which she
fell down dead on the spot. Then they cut that miserable victim into
morsels, and obliged some slaves of that nation they had been long pos-
sessed of, to eat them.83
This is the only account in Joutel which could be interpreted
as indicative of torture.
Excellent descriptions of the Southern Caddoans are fur-
nished in the letters of early Spanish Missionaries to eastern
Texas in 1691, 1716, and 1722, but only one slight reference to
torture is mentioned by these men who lived in intimacy with
and constant danger from the Indians. In 1691 Fray Franciso
Casanas de Jesus Maria wrote of the Tejas (Hasinai) as
In conclusion it may be said that these Indians practice no greater cruelty
than their enemies do. They tie a captive's feet and hands to a post
like a cross. Here they tear him to pieces, drinking the blood and eating
the flesh half roasted.8'
so Tonty, Memoir, p. 65.
81 Tonty, Memoir, p. 56.
82 Hennepin, p. 198.
as Joutel, Historical Journal, p. 160. See also Relation, pp. 379-380.
84 Hatcher, 30, p. 217.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
This has interesting connotations and will be discussed more
fully elsewhere. It confirms Joutel's observations on canni-
balism in this region but it is questionable whether it should
be identified as torture. Hidalgo and Espinosa do not mention
it.85" - -
An interesting account is furnished by Morfi for the Tao-
vayas, a Southern Caddoan tribe:
. . are excessively cruel with captives; . and this cruelty on their
part is more an impudent reprisal, . than a ferocious spirit, because
they only exercise it with those nations who treat their prisoners with
the same barbarity; and up to the present it is not known. On the con-
trary, they feast them and hold them to esteem in proportion to the valor
they show in their defense, . .86
When Gravier voyaged down the Mississippi about 1700 he
commented upon the torture practices of the Iroquois,87 but on
none lower down the river. He specifically exempts the Houma
from such cruelty.88
The accounts of d'Iberville of the first French Settlements
on the Gulf beginning in 1699, which were under his command,
give little ethnographic data and no indication of torture. The
missionary Ru who accompanied him is much more informative,
but has no remarks on any kind of torture, although several
cases of human sacrifice, which will be discussed later, were
noted by him. He does not suggest that any cruelty was asso-
ciated with the deaths of fifty Colapissa warriors at the hands
of the Chickasaw.9
Penicaut visited this region about 1704. He gives a descrip-
tion of cannibalism by the Hasinai during which the victim was
secured to a frame. Torture, aside from the eating of the victim
while still alive, apparently did not accompany it.90 He also
mentions that seventeen Spaniards were taken as prisoners to
-.obile in 1719 and clubbed to death, which is perhaps evidence
that torture was not used by this group.91 However, Penicaut
furnishes the earliest description of torture known for this
85 See Hatcher.
86 Morfi, p. 11.
87 Jesuit Relations, 65, pp. 35-37.
88 Jesuit Relations, 65, p. 151.
89 Ru, p. 66.
90 Penicaut, Annals, p. 121.
91 Penicaut, Annals, p. 148.
170 NATHANIEL KNOWLES
These savages who are named Coroas, are the most cruel of all those of
Louisiana. They are almost always hunting or at war, and when they
have taken one of their enemies alive, they fasten him to a frame, which
is composed of two poles 8 feet in height, 5 feet apart, the two hands
being well bound above and the two feet below, in the form of a St.
Andrew's cross. The poor wretch being fastened thus completely naked,
the entire village collects around him. They have a fire lighted in this
place, where they have placed pieces of iron such as old gun barrels,
shovels, or the iron part of axes and other similar things, to make them
red hot, and when they are thoroughly reddened they rub them upon his
back, arms, thighs, and legs; they then lay bare the skin all around his
head as far as the ears, tearing it off from him by force. They fill this
skin with burning coals, which they replace on his head; they put the ends
of his fingers into their lighted pipes, which they smoke, and tear out his
nails, tormenting him thus until he is dead.92
The Coroas, or Koroa, were a group speaking the Tunican
language. The fact that their cruelty impressed Penicaut as
unusual suggests the rarity if not the absence of torture in the
region. The related Tuniia were accused of burning a Natchez
woman on a frame set up in New Orleans with the-permission
of the French."
La Harpe, who settled in Louisiana in 1718, is a reasonably
full source for the Caddo and other Texas tribes. He gives
nothing on torture for this region, although he does repeat a
report that the Quapaw had burned some Iroquois alive in 1706."
Charlevoix, visiting the lower Mississippi in 1721-1722,
states that it was the fate of all Natchez captives to be burned.
He supplies no details other than that these captives were first
compelled to dance in front of the temple.9" The Quapaw are
accused by him also of burning those prisoners not saved for
Le Petit repeats the same brief description of Natchez tor-
ture as recorded by Charlevoix." It is only with the very full
account by Du Pratz that we get a satisfactory picture of the
actual treatment of a victim:
If they are able to carry away any of the enemies of their nation they
are received honorably. If these are women or children they are en-
92 Penieaut, Belation, pp. 458-459.
9s Romans, p. 96.
94 Harpe, p. 35.
95 Charlevoix, Historical Journal, p. 167.
96 Charlevoix, Historical Journal, p. 128.
97 Jesuit Relations, 68, p. 149.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
slaved. They serve in this capacity after their hair has been cut ex-
tremely short. But if it is a man that they have made prisoner the joy
is general and their glory is at its height. On arriving near their nation
they make the war cry three times repeated, and in this case, however
wearied the warriors may be, they go at once to hunt for the three poles
which are necessary for the construction of the fatal instrument on which
they are going to make the enemy they have taken die, I mean the frame
(cadre) on which they cruelly immolate the unfortunate victim of their
Of these three poles which are about ten feet long, two are set in the
earth. They are straight and a good pace apart from each other. They
assure themselves that they are firmly placed. The third is cut in halves
in order to cross the two that are already planted. The first is 2 feet
above the earth and the other 5 feet above the first. These poles, thus
adjusted and bound together as strongly as possible as is necessary, form,
indeed, a frame, and it is from that fact that the French have taken a
name of this gallows machine. The natives tie the victim to the foot of
this frame,98 and when he is there he sings the death song until his scalp
is taken. After the warriors have thus tied him they are permitted to
go to eat. The victim, if he so desires, may then take his last meal. The
old warriors guard him. Each one can look at him, but he is not allowed
to speak to him, still less to insult him.
When the warriors have finished their meal they come to the place
where the frame is planted to which the victim is tied. They make him
advance a little and turn his entire body around in order that the people
may see him. The one who has taken him gives a blow of his wooden
war club below the back part of his head, making the death cry while
removing the scalp in the best manner he is able without tearing it.
After the scalp has been taken from the victim, they tie a cord to
each of his wrists, throw the ends of the cords over the crosspiece, which
many take and draw in order to pull him up while others lift him, plac-
ing his feet on the crosspiece below and tying him to the corners of the
square. They do the same to his hands at the upper corners of the
square in such a manner that the victim in this position has his body free
and entirely bare, and the four limbs form a St. Andrew's cross.
From the time they begin to take the scalp from the victim the young
people go in search of dry canes, crush them, and make packages or
bundles of the entire length of the canes which they bind in many places.
They bring other dry canes, also, which have been neither crushed nor
bound which the warriors make use of against the victim.
The one who took him is the first one to take a single crushed cane,
light it and burn the place he may choose. But he devotes himself espe-
cially to burn the arm with which he (the prisoner) had best defended
himself. Another comes and burns another place. These, with their
pipes filled with dry and burning tobacco, burn him about the foot.
Those heat a nail red hot, with which they pierce his foot. All, in fact,
98 For an illustration of this "cadre" see Du Pratz, II, p. 429. Dumont, p. 78,
states that the frame was located in front of the temple.
one after the other, revenge themselves as best they are able on this
victim, who, so long as strength remains to him, employs it in singing
the death song, which, when closely examined, is found to consist of
grievous cries, tears, and groans. Usage decides and governs everything.
Some have been seen to sing and suffer continually during three days
and three nights without anyone giving them a glass of water to quench
their thirst, and it is not permitted to anyone to give it to them, even
should they ask for it, which they never do, without doubt, because they
know that the hearts of their enemies are inflexible. In fact, it must be
admitted that if the natives are good friends during peace, they are in
war irreconcilable enemies.
It sometimes happens that a young woman who may have lost her
husband in war, seeing the victim when he arrives completely naked and
without means of concealing his defects, if he has any, demands him for
her husband, and he is granted to her on the spot.
It also happens that when he suffers too long a pitying woman lights
a cane torch, and when it is burning well, makes him die in an instant
by putting this torch to the most sensitive place, and the tragic scene is
in this way ended."9
In his account of the 1729 massacre of the French by the
Natchez, Dumont does not indicate that any were tortured, but
a few days later a white was burned on the frame, evidently
subjected to the treatment described by Du Pratz.1'0 In 1730 a
French woman was burned.1"'
Bossu does not refer to the Natchez as torturing, but he gives
an account of Illinois cruelty to both Fox Indians and English-
men.102 He likewise accuses the Quapaw of torturing.10"
The French seem not only to have countenanced cruelty on
the part of their Indian allies, but even to have indulged in such
behavior themselves, for in a letter of Governor Perier after
the Natchez rebellion there is the following remark:
Latterly I burned four men, and two women, and sent the rest to St.
There are conflicting reports about the Choctaw during the
eighteenth century. Le Petit reports that they burned some
Negroes alive in 1730,10' and an early anonymous account of
09 Du Pratz, II, pp. 428-432.
o00 Dumont, pp. 78 f.
o01 Dumont, p. 98.
102 Bossu, I, pp. 130, 186.
103 Bossu, I, pp. 105 f.
104 Gayarre, I, p. 438.
10o Jesuit Relations, 68, p. 199.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Louisiana, translated by Swanton, dating from the early part
of the century states:
When they are able to bring home prisoners, they have them burned at
their village, and it is a great joy to them when this happens.106
On the contrary, Romans clears the Choctaw of any such
They never exercised so much cruelty as the other savages; they almost
always brought them home to show them, and then dispatched them with
a bullet or hatchet.107
He contrasts this conduct with that of the Creeks whom he
accuses of permitting hardly a captive to escape terrible tor-
tures.18' Dumont gives an incident of the Choctaw burning a
Natchez woman whom they tied to a bundle of canes when they
were aiding the French to avenge the massacre of 1729.101
In 1756 a Colapissa was surrendered to the Choctaw to re-
place a murdered man. This man was killed in great anger
but without torture.110
In 1722 four Frenchmen and an Indian slave were captured
by the Chickasaw. They wrote that their captors were treating
This is surely a sign that the Indians want peace, for when a prisoner
cannot work, it is their custom to kill them."11
The earliest account of Chickasaw torture refers to the time
of the French war against them in 1736 when twenty-six French
soldiers and seven officers were tied to stakes and burned by
By far the most complete account of Chickasaw torture, and,
in fact, for any Mushkogean tribe, is given by Adair who traded
in this region after 1736 and upon whom we must rely for much
of our data on Southeastern warfare. The following is his
description of the Chickasaw torture of a prisoner:
It has been long too feelingly known, that instead of observing the gen-
erous and hospitable part of the laws of war, and saving the unfortunate
1o6 Swanton, An Early Account, p. 67.
107 Romans, p. 75.
1os Romans, p. 97.
109 Dumont, p. 89.
1no Bossu, I, p. 171.
111 Mereness, pp. 31, 33.
112 Bossu, I, p. 311-Dumont, p. 114.
who fall into their power, that they generally devote their captives to
death, with the most agonizing tortures. No representation can possibly
be given, so shocking to humanity, as their unmerciful method of tor-
menting their devoted prisoner; and as it so contrary to the standard of
the rest of the known world, I shall relate the circumstances, so far as
to convey proper information thereof to the reader. When the company
return from war, and come in view of their own town, they follow the
leader one by one, in a direct line, each a few yards behind the other, to
magnify their triumph. If they have not succeeded, or any of their
warriors are lost, they return quite silent; but if they are all safe, and
have succeeded, they fire off the Indian platoon, by one, two, and three
at a time, whooping and insulting their prisoners. They camp near their
town all night, in a large square plot of ground, marked for the purpose,
with a high war-pole fixed in the middle of it, to which they secure their
prisoners. Next day they go to the leader's house in a very solemn pro-
cession, but they stay without, round his red-painted war-pole, till they
have determined concerning the fate of their prisoners. If any one of
the captives should be fortunate enough to get loose, run into the house
of the arch-magus, or to a town of refuge, he by ancient custom, is saved
from the fiery torture-these places being a sure asylum to them if they
were invaded, and taken, but not to invaders, because they came to shed
The young prisoners are saved, if not devoted while the company was
sanctifying themselves for their expedition; but if the latter be, the case,
they are condemned, and tied to the dreadful stake, one at a time. The
victors first strip their miserable captives, and put on their feet a pair of
bear-skin maccaseenes, with the black hairy part outwards; others fasten
with a grape-vine, a burning fire-brand to the pole, a little above the
reach of their heads. Then they know their doom-deep black, and burn-
ing fire, are fixed seals of their death-warrant. Their punishment is al-
ways left to the women; and on account of their false standard of educa-
tion, they are no way backward in their office, but perform it to the entire
satisfaction of the greedy eyes of the spectators. Each of them prepares
for the dreadful rejoicing, a long bundle of dry canes, or the heart of
fat pitch-pine, and as the victims are lead to the stake, the women and
their young ones beat them with these in a most barbarous manner.
Happy would it be for the miserable creatures, if their sufferings ended
here, or a merciful tomahawk finished them at one stroke; but this shame-
ful treatment is a prelude to future sufferings.
The death signal being given, preparations are made for acting a
more tragic part. The victim's arms are fast pinioned, and a strong
grape-vine is tied around his neck, to the top of the war-pole, allowing
him to track around, about fifteen yards. They fix some tough clay on
his head, to secure the scalp from the blazing torches. Unspeakable
pleasure now fills the exulting crowd of spectators, and the circle fills
with the Amazon and merciless executioners. The suffering warrior how-
ever is not dismayed; with an exulting manly voice he sings the war song !
And with gallant contempt he tramples the rattling gourd with pebbles
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS 175
in it to pieces, and outbraves even death itself. The women make a
furious onset with their burning torches; his pain is soon so excruciating,
that he rushes out from the pole, with the fury of the most savage beast
of prey, and with the vine sweeps down all before him, kicking, biting,
and trampling them, with the greatest despite. The circle immediately
fills again, either with the same, or fresh persons; they attack him on
every side-now he runs to the pole for shelter, but the flames pursue
him. Then with champing teeth, and sparkling eye-balls, he breaks
through their contracted circle afresh, and acts every part, that the
highest courage, most raging fury, and blackest despair can prompt him
to. But he is sure to be overpowered by numbers, and after some time
the fire affects his tender parts. Then they pour over him a quantity of
cold water, and allow him a proper time of respite, till his spirits recover,
and he is capable of suffering new tortures. Then the like cruelties are
repeated till he falls down, and happily becomes insensible of pain. Now
they scalp him, in the manner before described; dismember, and carry
off all the exterior branches of the body (pudendis non exceptis), in
shameful, and savage triumph. This is the most favorable treatment
their devoted captives receive; it would be too shocking to humanity
either to give, or peruse, every particular of their conduct in such doleful
tragedies-nothing can equal these scenes, but those of the merciful
Not a soul, of whatever age or sex, manifests the least pity during
the prisoner's tortures; the women sing with religious joy, all the while
they are torturing the devoted victim, and peals of laughter resound
through the crowded theatre-especially if he fears to die. But a war-
rior puts on a bold austere countenance, and carries it through all his
pains;-as long as he can, he whoops and outbraves the enemy, describing
his own martial deeds against them, and those of his nation, who he
threatens will force many of them to eat fire in revenge of his fate, as he
himself had often done to some of their relations at their cost."11
Except for the above, Adair gives few details of actual tor-
turing, merely mentioning that all Indians practised such cruel-
ties."1 All captives were not tortured, for Adair indicates that
only those who were pretty well advanced in life were so
treated."" However, the enemy might be "devoted" to death
prior to the setting out of the war party. The warriors made
a vow to kill all met on a certain trail, or during a certain time,
or belonging to a certain nation."1 This devotion to death did
not specifically require torture but perhaps might sometimes
include it. A prisoner, whether or not condemned to torture,
could be saved by escaping to a town of refuge or to the house
11 Adair, pp. 388-391.
114 Adair, p. 154.
115 Adair, p. 389.
116 Adair, p. 155. ;*. "' .*'
.. .* .. '* :
* " *
.. ....: .. .' .
.'. ............. : .....
of the Arch-magus."1 These towns of refuge, or White Towns,
offered a haven to criminals as well as to captives 11 in contrast
to the Red, or War, Towns which Swanton has suggested were
a recent addition by migration to the culture."1
Adair furnishes the following account of the Cherokee tor-
turing a party of Mohawks who had raided southward in 1747,
his information coming from a trader supposedly among the
Choctaw at the time:
But they were overpowered by numbers, captivated, and put to the most
exquisite tortures of fire, amidst a prodigious crowd of exulting foes.
. . when they were tied to the stake, the younger of the two discovering
our traders on a hill pretty near, addressed them in English, and en-
treated them to redeem their lives. The elder immediately spoke to him,
in his own language, to desist-on this he collected himself, and became
composed like a stoic, manifesting an indifference to life or death, pleas-
ure or pain, according to their standard of martial virtue: and their
dying behavior did not reflect the least dishonor on their former gallant
actions. All the pangs of fiery torture served only to refine their manly
spirits; and as it was out of the power of the traders to redeem them,
they according to our usual custom retired, as soon as the Indians began
the diabolical tragedy.20
A traditional account of Cherokee-torture of a Seneca chief
furnishes perhaps-the most detail:
They (the Cherokee) tied him (the Seneca chief) and carried him to two
women of the tribe who had the power to decide what should be done
with him. . They decided to burn the soles of his feet until they were
blistered, then to put grains of corn under the skin and to chase him with
clubs until they had beaten him to death.
They stripped him and burnt his feet. Then they tied a bark rope
around his waist, with an old man to hold the other end, and made him
run between two lines of people, with clubs in their hands. When they
gave the word to start . (he escaped).121
The above account is interesting mainly for the reference to
the power of deciding the fate of captives invested in the "Be-
117 Adair, pp. 156, 161, 417.
11s Schoolcraft, V, p. 279-Bartram, Travels, p. 389.
119 Swanton, Social Organization, pp. 274 f.
12o Adair, p. 384.
121 Mooney, Myths, p. 360. Dr. Fenton has kindly communicated to the writer
a practically identical tradition obtained by him in 1934 from John Jimmerson,
except that it applied to the Choctaw, not the Cherokee. About the time of the wars
of 1750-1760 a Seneca chief was captured, had both his feet blistered, and then
escaped from the row of warriors. The principal difference between these traditions,
other than the identity of the enemy, is in the condemnation to torture. In the case
of the Choctaw this was dony by:a euuiieof .warriors.
,'. .: .": .
S'". :" "" *' :.'
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
loved Women" and is confirmed by Timberlake who was with
the Cherokee about 1760:
Old warriors likewise, or war-women, who can no longer go to war, but
have distinguished themselves in their younger days, have the title of
Beloved. This is the only titles females can enjoy; but it abundantly
recompenses them, by the power they acquire by -it which is so great that
they can, by the wave of a swan's wing, deliver a wretch condemned by
the council and already tied to the stake.122
In 1776 they threatened to torture a white woman:
She was bound, taken to the top of one of the mounds, and was about to
be burned, when Nancy Ward, then exercising in the nation the functions
of the Beloved or Pretty Woman, interfered and pronounced her
During this same campaign instigated by the British the
Cherokees captured a boy:
Moore (the boy) was carried prisoner to the Indian towns, and was
tortured to death by burning.124
The ferocious reputation of the Cherokee among the Whites
of Carolina is perhaps best expressed by Logan:
. the midnight alarms and horrid butcheries of helpless women and
children, and the terrible scenes of their more dreadful tortures in
captivity and at the stake, have not yet received due notice at the hands
of any chronicler.125
Nevertheless, there is no adequate description of the torture
practices available. It cannot be too explicitly assumed that
a stake was actually used because Indian torture was often
characterized as burning at the stake although in most cases
there was no actual binding of the captive.
Adair also refers to an English narrative stating that the
Shawnee tortured men, women and children, but did not attempt
the chastity of women for fear of offending their god.126
Shawnee torture of a Creek is mentioned without details.127 A
rather full description of the torture of an Iroquois appears in
122 Timberlake, p. 71.
123 Ramsey, p. 157.
124 Ramsey, p. 158.
125 Logan, p. 205.
126 Adair, p. 164.
127 Adair, p. 392-Logan, pp. 250-251.
178 NATHANIEL KNOWLES
(The Shawano also captivated a warrior of the Anantooeah, and put him
to the stake, according to their usual cruel solemnities. Having uncon-
cernedly suffered much sharp torture, he told them with scorn, they did
not know how to punish a noted enemy, therefore he was willing to teach
them, and would confirm the truth of his assertion, if they allowed him
the opportunity. Accordingly he requested of them a pipe and some
tobacco, which was given him: as soon as he lighted it, he sat down, naked
as he was, on the women's burning torches, that were within his circle,
and continued smoking his pipe without the least discomposure-on this
a head warrior leaped up, and said they had seen plain enough, that he
was a warrior, and not afraid of dying; nor should he have died, only
that he was both spoiled by the fire, and devoted to it by their laws:
however, though he was a very dangerous enemy, and his nation a
treacherous people, it should appear that they paid a regard to bravery,
even in one who was marked over the body with war streaks, at the cost
of many lives of their beloved kindred. And then by way of favor, he,
with his friendly tomahawk, instantly put an end to all his pains:-
though the merciful but bloody instrument was ready some minutes
before he gave the blow, yet I was assured, the spectators could not
perceive the sufferer to change, either his posture, or his steady erect
countenance, in the least.128
Shortly after Mary Jemison's capture by the Shawnee in
1755, she saw the fragments of burnt bodies hanging on a pole
in a Shawnee village on the banks of the Ohio.129 She describes
how the Shawnee tortured a white captive in 1759 for what she
believed to be the sole purpose of exulting at his distress:
They first made him stand up, while they slowly pared his ears, and split
them into strings. They then made a number of slight incisions in his
face, and bound him on the ground, rolled him in the dirt, and rubbed
it in his wounds, some of them at the same time whipping him with small
Mary Jemison, at this time an adopted Iroquois, persuaded
them to release him.
In 1782 the Shawnee burned the British Officer Crawford.
A council decided his fate which was to be fastened by the wrists
to a thick post in the midst of a circle of fire and slowly roasted.
Squaws also threw embers on him. This proceeding was watched
with pleasure by the renegade Simon Girty."1' A captive was
tied to a tree in 1790 and embers applied to deep cuts made in
128 Adair, pp. 392-393.
129 Seaver, p. 56.
130 Seaver, p. 75.
131 Seaver, pp. 194 f.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
his body. He was then released and killed by torches applied
to his bowels.132
Ridout describes the torturing by the Shawnee of a captive
who had been given to one of the warriors in 1788. This warrior
wished to kill him instead of adopting him. The victim ran out
of a house, entirely naked and with his ears cut off. The In-
dians chased him to a hill where he was tortured by fire for
three hours until dead. Later the wigwams were "beaten" to
drive away the spirits of the dead."13
In 1790 Hay was surprised that a captive taken to avenge the
murder of a Shawnee had been adopted rather than burned, a
fate which he believed was inflicted in all such cases.134
The Prophet told Trowbridge that he had witnessed the burn-
ing of two white men about 1794 near Fort Wayne. No fire was
kindled to hasten their deaths but they were slowly killed with
brands. All prisoners painted black before their arrival in the
village were tortured unless released by the great peace
woman.13"a A tradition states that a Cannibalistic Society
burned and ate prisoners although it is not clear that the burn-
ing took place while the victim was alive.134b
A pseudo-historical account of Shawnee torture was obtained
in 1935 by Dr. E. Voegelin from her informant. The bravery
of the Catawba victims is emphasized, and the method of burn-
ing them is unique in this region. They were compelled to walk
back and forth in a small space surrounded by fire. It was also
stated that onei division of the Shawnee were not allowed to
When Milfort arrived among the Creeks in the latter part
of the eighteenth century he said he found them still practising
torture by burning their captives and that he persuaded them to
abandon the custom.136 Bartram describes the Chunky Yards of
the Creeks with their "slave posts" to which captives con-
demned to be burned had once been tied but which were stated
to be no longer in use although some old traders remembered
such burnings.1"' He saw no such Chunky Yards in the Chero-
132 Spencer, p. 16.
183 Edgar, pp. 363-364.
184 Hay, p. 248.
384a Voegelin, p. 21.
184b Voegelin, pp. 53 f., 64.
135 Personal communication through the kindness of Dr. E. Voegelin.
136 Milfort, p. 219.
137 Bartram, Observations, pp. 35-36.
kee towns but found remains of them in the ancient sites.138 In
another place, Bartram was assured by the oldest traders that
they had never seen an instance of burning though they said it
had occurred formerly."13 He was told by an old Spaniard that
both the Creeks and the Spaniards had been cruel to prisoners,
and that the Indians had burned captives to appease the spirits
of their slain relatives.'14
Swan does not describe Creek torture but its occurrence may
be inferred from his statement that captives who succeeded in
reaching a town of refuge escaped such a fate.1"' In Hawkin's
accounts of the Creeks in the period between 1796 and 1806 no
references are made to torture. Recent informants of Swanton
said they still remembered the Creek slave posts for securing
torture victims,142 and also told him a tradition that the Indians
of Alabama had once tortured one of their own tribe who had
been adopted by the Choctaw and had then fought against his
Speck was told by informants in 1906 that the Yuchi had
burned captives at the stake in the square grounds, the captor
having the right to determine the fate of his prisoner.'"4
Archaeological evidences of torture or human sacrifice from
the mounds is very inconclusive. Thomas thought that there
were some indications of the practice in Illinois and Tennessee,
based upon occasional remains of burnt stakes and associated
charred bones.145 He did not believe that this indicated human
sacrifice,'46 but the basis for such a fine distinction is not evident.
More recently Shetrone concluded:
Despite the fact that early writers attributed human sacrifice to the
Hopewell and other highly evolved mound-building peoples, there is no
real evidence and scant probability that it was practised among them.14'
Contact of Indian and White in the north was much more
38s Bartram, Observations, p. 36-Swanton was told by informants that these
posts were still faintly remembered as being in the shape of a war club. Swanton,
Social Organization, p. 437.
139 Bartram, Travels, p. 213.
140 Bartram, Travels, pp. 488-489.
141 Schooleraft, V, p. 279.
142 Swanton, Social Organization, p. 437.
14u Swanton, Social Organization, p. 426.
144 Speck, Yuchi, pp. 85, 116.
145 Thomas, p. 676.
146 Thomas, p. 675.
147 Shetrone, p. 100.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS 181
gradual than in the Southeast and without the accompanying
slavery. The explorations of the Cabots in 1494 and 1497 fur-
nish practically no data on the Indians. The contacts made by
Cartier on his three voyages to the St. Lawrence between 1534
and 1541 were essentially friendly and consequently the war
practices and the treatment accorded captives by the Iroquois
and Algonkians were not observed. Except for these slight
contacts, the entire sixteenth century was a period of neglect of
this part of the New World by the Europeans.
With the opening years of the seventeenth century the Al-
gonkians and Iroquois of the region adjacent to the St. Lawrence
quickly became familiar to the French Explorers and Mission-
aries. Champlain in 1603 and the succeeding years vividly de-
scribes the tortures of the Montagnais, Huron, Five Nation
Iroquois, and even the Susquehanna of Pennsylvania in terms no
different than those employed in the great number of cases cited
in the Jesuit Relations all during the century. Death by torture
was clearly a factor of extreme unpleasantness to be re-ckoned
with in every contact with these northern Indians. The deTails
varied somewhat from group to group but the following descrip-
tion of Huron treatment of one of the Five Nation Iroquois
from Le Jeune's Relation of 1637 is reasonably typical of the
tortures inflicted by Iroquoian speaking people of upper New
York State and Canada:
Meanwhile the sun which was fast declining, admonished us to withdraw
to the place where this cruel Tragedy was to be enacted. It was in the
cabin of one Atsan, who is the great war Captain; Therefore it is called
"Otinotsiskiaj ondaon," meaning, "the house of cut-off heads." It is
there all the Councils of war are held; as to the house where the affairs
of the country, and those which relate only to the observance of order,
are transacted, it is called "Endionrra Ondaon," "house of the Council."
. . Towards 8 o'clock in the evening, eleven fires were lighted along the
cabin, about one brass distant from each other. The people gathered
immediately, the old men taking places above, upon a sort of platform,
which extends, on both sides, the entire length of the cabin. The young
men were below, but were so crowded that they were almost piled upon
one another, so that there was hardly a passage along the fires. Cries
of joy resounded on all sides; each provided himself, one with a fire-
brand, another with a piece of bark, to burn the victim. Before he was
brought in, the Captain Aenons encouraged all to do their duty, repre-
senting to them the importance of this act, which was viewed, he said,
by the Sun and by the God of war. He ordered that at first they should
burn only his legs, so that he might hold out until daybreak; also for that
night they were not to go and amuse themselves in the woods. He had
hardly finished when the victim entered. I leave you to imagine the
terror that seized him at the sight of these preparations. The cries re-
doubled at his arrival; he is made to sit down upon a mat, his hands are
bound, then he rises and makes a tour of the cabin, singing' and dancing;
no one burns him this time, but also this is the limit of his rest-one can
hardly tell what he will endure up to the time when they cut off his head.
He had no sooner returned to his place than the war Captain took his
robe and said, "Oteiondi"-speaking of a Captain-"will despoil him
of the robe which I hold"; and added, "The Atachonchronons will cut
off his head, which will be given to Ondessone, with one arm and the liver
to make a feast.'' Behold his sentence thus pronounced. After this each
one armed himself with a brand, or a piece of burning bark, and he began
to walk, or rather to run, around the fires; each one struggled to burn
him as he passed. Meanwhile, he shrieked like a lost soul; the whole
crowd imitated his cries, or rather smothered them with horrible shouts.
One must be there, to see a living picture of Hell. The whole cabin
appeared as if on fire; and, althwart the flames and dense smoke that
issued therefrom, these barbarians-crowding one upon the other, howl-
ing at the top of their voices, with firebrands in their hands, their eyes
flashing with rage and fury-seemed like so many demons who would
give no respite to this poor wretch. They often stopped him at the other
end of the cabin, some of them taking his hands and breaking the bones
thereof by sheer force; others pierced his ears with sticks which they left
in them; others bound his wrists with cords which they tied roughly,
pulling at each end of the cord with all their might. Did he make the
round and pause for a little breath, he was made to repose upon hot ashes
and burning coals. . But God permitted that on the seventh round
of the cabin his strength should fail him. After he had reposed a short
time upon the embers, they tried to make him rise as usual, but he did
not stir; and one of these butchers having applied a brand to his loins,
he was seized with a-fainting fit, and would never have risen again if the
young men had been permitted to have their-way, for they had already
begun to stir up the fire about him, as if to burn him. But the Captains
prevented them from going any farther, and ordered them to cease tor-
menting him, saying it was important that he should see the daylight.
They had him lifted upon a mat, most of the fires were extinguished, and
many of the people went away. Now there was a little respite for our
sufferer, and some consolation for us. .. While he was in this condi-
tion, their only thought was to make him return to his senses, giving him
many drinks composed of pure water only. At the end of an hour he
began to revive a little, and to open his eyes; he was forthwith com-
manded to sing. He did this at first in a broken and, as it were, dying
voice; but finally he sang so loud that he could be heard outside the cabin.
The youth assembled again; they talk to him, they make him sit up-in
a word they begin to act worse than before. For me to describe in detail
all he endured during the rest of the night, would be almost impossible;
we suffered enough in forcing ourselves to see a part of it. Of the rest
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
we judged from their talk; and the smoke issuing from his roasted flesh
revealed to us something of which we could not have borne the sight.
One thing, in my opinion, greatly increased his consciousness of suffering
-that anger and rage did not appear upon the faces of those who were
tormenting him, but rather gentleness and humanity, their words ex-
pressing only raillery or tokens of friendship and goodwill. There was
no strife as to who should burn him-each one took his turn; thus they
gave themselves leisure to meditate some new devise to make him feel the
fire more keenly. They hardly burned him anywhere except in the legs,
but these, to be sure, they reduced to a wretched state, the flesh being
all in shreds. Some applied burning brands to them and did not with-
draw them until he uttered loud cries; and, as soon as he ceased shriek-
ing, they again began to burn him, repeating it seven or eight times-
often reviving the fire, which they held close against the flesh, by blowing
upon it. Others bound cords around him and then set them on fire, thus
burning him slowly and causing him the keenest agony. There were
some who made him put his feet on red-hot hatchets, and then pressed
down on them. You could have heard the flesh hiss, and seen the smoke
which issued therefrom rise even to the roof of the cabin. They struck
him with clubs upon the head, and passed small sticks through his ears;
they broke the rest of his fingers; they stirred up the fire all around
his feet. No one spared himself, and each one strove to surpass his
companion in cruelty. But, as I have said, what was most calculated in
all this to plunge him into despair, was their raillery, and the compli-
ments they paid him when they approached to burn him. This one said
to him, "Here, uncle, I must burn thee"; and afterwards this uncle
found himself changed into a canoe. "Come," said he, "let us caulk
and pitch my canoe, it is a beautiful new canoe which I lately traded
for; I must stop all the water holes well,"' and meanwhile he was passing
the brand all along his legs. Another one asked him, "Come, uncle,
where do you prefer that I should burn you?" and this poor sufferer
had to indicate some particular place. At this, another one came along
and said, "For my part, I do not know anything about burning; it is a
trade that I never practised,'' and meantime his actions were more cruel
than those of the others. In the midst of this heat, there were some who
tried to make him believe that he was cold. "Ah, it is not right," said
one, "that my uncle should be cold; I must warm thee." Another one
added, "Now as my uncle has kindly deigned to come and live among the
Hurons, I must make him a present, I must give him a hatchet,"' and with
that he jeeringly applied to his feet a red-hot hatchet. Another one like-
wise made him a pair of stockings from old rags, which he afterwards set
on fire; and often, after having made him utter loud cries, he asked him,
"And now, uncle, hast thou had enough?" And when he replied,
"onnachouaten, onna," "Yes, nephew, it is enough, it is enough," these
barbarians replied, "No, it is not enough," and continued to burn him
at intervals, demanding of him every time if it was enough. They did
not fail from time to time to give him something to eat, and to pour water
into his mouth, to make him endure until morning; and you might have
seen, at the same time, green ears of corn roasting at the fire and near
them red-hot hatchets; and sometimes, almost at the same moment that
they were giving him of the ears to eat, they were putting the hatchets
upon his feet. If he refused to eat, "Indeed," said they, "dost thou
think thou art master here?" and some added, "For my part, I believe
thou wert the only Captain in thy country. But let us see, wert thou
not very cruel to prisoners; now just tell us, didst thou not enjoy burning
them? Thou didst not think thou wert to be treated in the same way,
but perhaps thou didst think thou hadst killed all the Hurons ?"
Behold in part how passed the night, . . One thing that consoled
us was to see the patience which he bore all this pain. In the midst of
their taunts and jeers, not one abusive or impatient word escaped his
lips. . He himself also entertained the company for a while, on the
state of affairs in his country, and the death of some Hurons who had
been taken in war. He did this as easily, and with a countenance as
composed, as anyone there present would have showed. This availed him
at least as so much dimunition of his sufferings; therefore, he said, they
were doing him a great favor by asking him many questions, and that
this in some measure diverted him from his troubles. As soon as day
began to dawn, they lighted fires outside the village, to display there the
excess of their cruelty to the sight of the Sun. The victim was lead
thither. .. .Meanwhile, two of them took hold of him and made him
mount a scaffold 6 or 7 feet high; 3 or 4 of these barbarians followed him.
They tied him to a tree which passed across it, but in such a way he was
free to turn around. There they began to burn him more cruelly than
ever, leaving no part of his body to which fire was not applied at inter-
vals. When one of these butchers began to burn him and to crowd him
closely, in trying to escape him, he fell into the hands of another who
gave him no better reception. From time to time they were supplied
with new brands, which they thrust, all aflame, down his throat, even
forcing them into his fundament. They burned his eyes; they applied
red-hot hatchets to his shoulders; they hung some around his neck,
which they turned now upon his back, now upon his breast, according
to the position he took in order to avoid the weight of this burden. If
he attempted to sit or crouch down, someone thrust a brand from under
the scaffolding which soon caused him to arise. . They so harassed
him upon all sides that they finally put him out of breath; they poured
water into his mouth to strengthen his heart, and the Captains called
out to him that he should take a little breath. But he remained still,
his mouth open, and almost motionless. Therefore, fearing that he would
die otherwise than by the knife, one cut off a foot, another a hand, and
almost at the same time a third severed the head from the shoulders,
throwing it into the crowd, where someone caught it to carry it to the
Captain Ondessone, for whom it had been reserved, in order to make a
feast therewith. As for the trunk, it remained at Arontaen, where a
feast was made of it the same day. . On the way (home) we encoun-
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
tered a Savage who was carrying upon a skewer one of his half-roasted
Captives were usually treated brutally from the moment of
capture. The physical condition of the prisoner due to this
abuse might be such that he was not acceptable for adoption.149
At times, particularly if the captive had been tentatively as-
signed for adoption, there might be a period prior to torturing
when he was treated handsomely and feasted."15 A Shawnee
captive of the Iroquois was said to have been unharmed from
the time of capture and upon arrival in the village had not been
greeted with blows but had been dressed and given to three
women to replace a kinsman. Adoption had apparently been
in the minds of the captors from the beginning, although in this
case torture was finally inflicted upon the Shawnee.1'" An ex-
ception to these reports of initial harsh treatment is the remark
,by Colden that he knew of no case where the captive was offered
the least abuse,2"" but this is undoubtedly an overstatement.
The journey to the village of the captors might take some time,
and it was customary to stop at each village passed and to force
the captives to run between two lines of women and children,
who beat them with clubs, to a platform where they were ex-
hibited for the amusement and abuse of the inhabitants."5
Women seem to have rarely been tortured, but were rather
kept to repopulate the villages decimated by constant warfare.'5
There may have been some tribal differences in this respect.
The Neutrals were accused of torturing women in contrast to
the Hurons who, supposedly, did not do so.'"' The Mohawks
may have burned only the old women.15 The Susquehanna were
accused of burning a woman too injured to be of value as a
captive.'"' The Onondaga apparently made little distinction
between age and sex in their torture victims,"" even torturing a
boy of about ten years.1"' In 1667 the Oneida burned four Sus-
s48 Jesuit Relations, 13, pp. 59-79.
149 Jesuit Relations, 13, pp. 39 f.
150 Jesuit Relations, 13, pp. 37; 42, p. 177-Beauchamps, A History, p. 178.
151 Galinee, p. 183.
152 Schoolcraft, III, p. 188.
153 Jesuit Relations, 39, pp. 57, 175.
154 Beauchamps, A History, pp. 196 f.
155 Jesuit Relations, 21, p. 195.
156 Megapolensis, p. 174.
157 Jesuit Relations, 42, p. 189.
58s Jesuit Relations, 47, p. 147.
s59 Jesuit Relations, 42, p. 189.
quehanna women,160 and there are several other accounts of the
Five Nations torturing women."16 Father Joques gives a de-
scription of the sacrifice of a woman by the Mohawk. She was
first burned and then thrown into the fire as an offering to the
war god Aireskoi to assure further victories over their enemies.
Pieces of this woman were then distributed to various villages
to be eaten in solemn feasts during the winter.1'6
The selection of victims for torture seems to have depended
largely upon their desirability for adoption. According to one
of the earlier Relations, a council of old men determined the
disposal of all trophies of war, including the allocation of cap-
tives for adoption and the selection of the town in which the
others were to be burned.'"" It has also been stated that the
uterine family through its matron decided the fate of the cap-
tive."4 However, should a captive be adopted either through
such assignment or by choice expressed by relatives of deceased
warriors 165 or by others,1"6 and then prove unsatisfactory he
could still be given over to torture.'"1 Perhaps the most common
form of adoption was for a widow to replace a lost husband,16"
but should this man prove unsatisfactory after adoption he might
be tortured.'" An Iroquois chief was reputed to have adopted
and subsequently burned 40 prisoners because they did not prove
worthy to succeed his dead brother.17" Another chief reputedly
tortured 80 captives to the shade of his brother.1"' In 1669 an
old Seneca woman gave the captive allowed to her to replace her
dead son over to torture because she could not bear to see him
alive.172 So great was the power of a relative over the disposal
of a captive that the wishes of the tribe might be ignored even
in tb face of a possible ensuing war.'
3o Beauchamps, A History, p. 219.
61 Jesuit Relations, 47, pp. 53-65, 35.
162 Jesuit Relations, 39, pp. 219-221.
163 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 37.
164 Hevitt, The League of the Iroquois, p. 533.
165 Morgan, I, p. 333-Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 37 f.; 22, p. 259 f.; 31, p. 53; 42,
pp. 177, 191-195-Megapolensis, p. 179-Schoolcraft, III, p. 188-Galinee, p. 183.
166 Morgan, I, p. 332.
167 Morgan, I, p. 277-Schooleraft, III, p. 189.
168 Jesuit Relations, 42, p. 177-Beauchamps, A History, p. 199.
169 Jesuit Relations, 42, pp. 177-179.
170 Jesuit Relations, 42, pp. 191-195.
171 Jesuit Relations, 48, p. 169.
172 Galinee, p. 184.
173 Jesuit Relations, 42, p. 177.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Formal torture seems to have fallen into two distinct parts.
The first was enacted in a large cabin and lasted all night."'
This cabin has been identified, in one case, as that of the war
chief which was used for war councils."' The victim was com-
pelled to run around a row of fires while the young men applied
brands and other forms of torture to him, reviving him when he
fainted, and taking care not to cause his death, for it was essen-
tial that he last until dawn."' It is probable that only men
were present, the younger ones taking the more active role and
the elders watching the proceedings.1"' Any levity on the part
of the participants, or going out into the woods for "amuse-
ment," was strictly prohibited, because the Sun and the God of
War viewed the application of torture."8
At dawn the victim would be taken outside, where fires had
been lighted, and forced to mount a platform 7 or 8 feet high.
He was fastened loosely to this and tortured to death in front
of the entire population."' Torture on the platform might oc-
cur, however, without the earlier cabin torture.' 8 On one occa-
sion, the Susquehanna made the victim mount the platform and
then shoved him off into a fire, from which they rescued him,
and continued to torture him.'18 Relative freedom of movement,
not binding to a stake, seems to have been the general rule.
The Seneca once, after six hours of applying hot irons to the
victim on the platform, compelled him to run through the village
for two more hours, while they beat him with brands.182
The victim was expected to sing and dance at all times. He
did this when a farewell feast was given before torture began,
in the case of his having been previously adopted, and in the
cabin during the night of torture.8" Songs were largely T 'ast-
ing and emphasized the lack of fear on the part of the siLner.
On the return journey after capture, songs were required in each
village visited, and upon arrival at the home village more were
174 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 59-22, p. 259-Murray, p. 75.
175 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 59.
176 Jesuit Relations, 13, pp. 61, 65; 22, p. 263.
177 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 61.
178 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 61; 17, p. 159.
179 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 77; 22, p. 263; 17, p. 65.
180 Jesuit Relations, 45, p. 257-Galinee, p. 184.
181 Lindestrom, p. 242.
182 Galinee, p. 186.
183 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 37 f.
insisted upon.184 Songs were expected all during the torture.'18
There is one account of an Algonkian who ate his own flesh,
which was fed to him by an Iroquois, without showing signs of
repugnance.'s6 There is not enough evidence to show clearly the
attitude expected of the torturers to the bravery of the victim.
They seem to have expected him to sing, and forced him to do
so as much as possible. Bravery might be rewarded by a form
of heart or blood cannibalism. However, there are accounts
which suggest that it was considered an evil omen should no
pain be shown.1"' Such competition between the victim and the
torturers, the torturers being under urgent need to break the
spirit of the victim, appears to have been relatively rare. A
tradition of a Seneca warrior captured, tortured, and finally
escaping from the Choctaw, perhaps indicates the attitude ex-
pected by the Seneca of one of their own warriors in the hands
of the enemy. He boasted of feeling no pain, glorified his own
record for martial deeds, told them what the Seneca would do
in revenge, and sang his farewell song.'88
The methods of torturing varied considerably and showed
quite a bit of ingenuity. Included among them were: applying
brands, embers, and hot metal to various parts of body; putting
hot sand and embers on scalped head; hanging hot hatchets about
neck; tearing out hair and beard; firing cords bound around
body; mutilating ears, nose, lips, eyes, tongue, and various parts
of the body; searing mutilated parts of the body; biting or tear-
ing out nails; twisting fingers off; driving skewers in finger
stumps; pulling sinews out of arms; etc."'8 Mary Jemison men-
tions certain other methods which apparently did not appear
until after 1755, as they have not been noted in the earlier
sources. These included firing of pine splinters stuck in the
victim, and, in the case of Thomas Boyd, pulling out the intes-
There seems to have been a definite feeling that death should
184 Jesuit Relations, 22, p. 259; 39, p. 57.
185 Jesuit Relations, 10, pp. 227-229; 39, pp. 57, 175; 4, p. 201-Megapolensis,
p. 174-Champlain, IV, p. 100.
s86 Champlain, V, p. 311.
18s Jesuit Relations, 22, p. 259.
188 The author is indebted to Dr. W. N. Fenton for this account.
189 Some of the more complete descriptions of these methods are found in the
Jesuit Relations, I, pp. 271-273; 10, pp. 227-229; 13, pp. 37-79; 22, pp. 259-267;
39, pp. 57-77; etc.
190 Seaver, pp. 37, 122.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
not occur by fire or directly under torture. The sacrifice of
the woman to the war god, previously noted, was an exception
to this. Death by the knife was commonly required,"9 and like-
wise beating in the head of the victim.'92 Cutting off the head
or limbs of the still living, but unconscious, victim is mentioned,'3"
and the heart would sometimes be torn out before death.'94 The
Susquehanna are mentioned as having released a tortured cap-
tive just before death, in order to allow the boys to shoot him
while he attempted to run away.l'"
Cannibalism apparently invariably accompanied torture
among all Iroquois speaking people. It was also most impor-
tant to eat at solemn feasts the flesh of the woman sacrified to
the war god, and it is significant that the Iroquois made a feast
of bear meat to the war god as atonement for not eating cap-
tives, and promised to do so in the future if success in war were
granted.'1" "Eating" of the enemy was even used as a threat-
ening expression.19" The Mohawks were accused,' by the Dutch,
of eating slain enemies,"98 and the Iroquois supposedly ate war
victims as late as 1756.'9 In addition to general cannibalism
with every case of torture,200 emphasis was placed particularly
upon the heart, which might be torn from the still living victim,
roasted and eaten.2"' The heart might be fed to the young men
of the tribe,202 or the captive might be forced to eat his own body
or that of his comrades.203 The blood might also be drunk,"'0 or
fed to children,20' or put directly into the veins through a cut.206
This seems to have been done only if the victim had been espe-
191 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 79; 17, p. 65.
192 Jesuit Relations, 10, pp. 227-229. Galinee, p. 186.
193 Jesuit Relations, 10, p. 227; 13, pp. 61, 79.
194 Jesuit Relations, 22, p. 265; 34, p. 27; I, p. 273.
195 Lindestrom, p. 242.
196 Jesuit Relations, 39, pp. 219 f.-Megapolensis, p. 177.
197 Tonty, Memoir, p. 57.
98s Wassenaer, p. 84.
199 Heckwelder, p. 54.
2o Jesuit Relations, 4, p. 201; 10, pp. 227-229; 22, pp. 253, 255, 259; 13, pp.
79, 283; 39, pp. 57, 81; 17, p. 75-Megapolensis, p. 174-Galinee, p. 186-Murray,
201 Jesuit Relations, 22, p. 259; 34, p. 27.
202 Jesuit Relations, 10, pp. 227-229; I, p. 273.
203 Champlain, IV, p. 100, V, p. 310-Jesuit Relations, 34, p. 27-Hennepin, p.
204 Jesuit Relations, 34, p. 27.
205 Hennepin, p. 198.
206 Jesuit Relations, 10, pp. 227-229.
cially brave. A Dutch report states that the Mohawk reserved
the head and heart for the chief, while the common people ate
the trunk.207 Just the opposite was averred for the Huron who,
while normally presenting the head of game to the chief, as the
choice morsel, gave the head of a human victim to the meanest
person in the tribe.208 However, another observer, a few years
later, states that the head of the victim was given to the chief
for a feast.209 Le Jeune mentions an interesting form of canni-
balism which has a curious resemblance to the Endo-cannibalism
around the Gulf of Mexico. In the feast preparatory to war, a
new-born child was shot with arrows, burned, and the ashes
II. TORTURE PRACTICES OF CONTIGUOUS GROUPS
The Montagnais, as allies of the Huron, tortured captives
taken from the Five Nations, employing the same methods as
their reputed teachers, including cannibalism, but with perhaps
more restrictions on the movements of the victim, less cere-
monialism, and no use either of the preliminary torture in the
large cabin or of a platform.211 The Lenape usually adopted
captives and torture was, according to Heckewelder, relatively
rare and only done under extreme provocation from the Iro-
quois whom they accused of inventing the practice.212 There
does not seem to be any good evidence that torturing was in-
dulged in by other Eastern Algonkians. It is, therefore, quite
probable that neither the New England Algonkians nor those of
Canada not in contact with the Iroquois practised torture as
distinct from individual brutalities. After the arrival of the
Iroquois in this region certain Algonkian tribes in direct conflict
with them tortured from purely retaliatory motives. Flannery
reaches a similar conclusion regarding Eastern Algonkian tor-
Lacking from Northern Algonkian. More probably due to Iroquois
influence among the Coastal Algonkian.213
207 Megapolensis, p. 174.
20s Jesuit Relations, 10, p. 229.
209 Jesuit Relations, 13, pp. 61, 79.
210 Jesuit Relations, 19, p. 71.
211 Jesuit Relations, 5, pp. 27 f., 51 f.-Champlain, II, pp. 136 f., V, pp. 231 f.
212 Heckewelder, pp. 217 f., 343.
213 Flannery, p. 126.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Jenness attributed torture among the Indians of Canada en-
tirely to the Iroquois.214
It is also probable that the Central Algonkians learned tor-
turing from the Iroquois, and that it was not a trait of their
culture prior to the Iroquois raids in the seventeenth century.
The Illinois, who used approximately the same techniques, in-
cluding eating the victim, as did the Iroquois, stated that they
had learned from them, and did it only in retaliation.2"1 Tonty
was threatened with fire by the Tamaroas, an Illinois tribe, be-
cause he was mistaken for an Iroquois.21' Penicaut credited
them with killing captives with clubs and, therefore, as being
less cruel than other tribes.217 According to Bossu, referring to
a later period, they burned Fox prisoners, and, in 1756, an
Englishman brought back from Virginia.218 The Ojibwa did not
torture,219 nor, apparently, did the Menomini 220 or the Sauk.22
Forsyth reported that the Sauk and Fox treated enemies, if they
did not kill them immediately, with the greatest humanity."'
The Potawatomi seem to have tied those condemned by the coun-
cil to a stake and shot them.22" The Miami were accused of still
burning captives as late as 1812, but the older practice is not
clear. A Cannibalistic Society to which prisoners were given
has been mentioned, but the mode of death is not stated.224 The
Shawnese Prophet told Trowbridge that he had seen the Kicka-
poo burn a white man about 1812. He had first been led into
the village, painted black, and the next day tortured about three
miles away from the village in a manner very similar to that
described by Adair for the Chickasaw. His body was eaten by
the torturers.224a This was a very late occurrence and was done
in order to avenge the murder of a chief by the whites.
Torturing was certainly not characteristic of the Plains
214 Jenness, Indians of Canada, p. 279.
215 Jesuit Relations, 67, pp. 173 f.
226 Tonty, Memoir, p. 65.
217 Penicaut, p. 110.
218 Bossu, I, pp. 130, 186.
219 Jenness, Indians of Canada, p. 279.
220 Skinner, War Customs, p. 311.
221 Skinner, Observations, p. 72.
222 Blair, II, p. 97.
223 Skinner, The Mascoutens, pp. 40 f.
224 Trowbridge, pp. 23 f., 29.
224a Voegelin, pp. 20 f.
tribes. A recent study of the Plains war complex does not
refer to such behavior,22 and a cursory examination of some of
the material pertaining to groups adjacent to the Woodlands
does not indicate that it was present in the cultures. The
Dakota were said to have sent captives home unharmed,226 and,
according to Perrot, while they might tie them to stakes for the
boys to shoot, they never burned them except in reprisal against
the Iroquois.227 Dorsey's source for mutilation of captives at
the stake by Dakota women is not given.2"2 The Mandan 229 and
the Omaha 280 did not torture. Mrs. Kelly, a captive among the
Oglalla Sioux, writes of the horrible tortures which she not only
expected but which she actually went through, although, aside
from some death threats, there is no indication that she was
even particularly mistreated.281 The Winnebago seldom took
prisoners unless for adoption, and an enemy not selected for
this was slain at once.232 The Pawnee are accused by Dunbar
of delighting in tortures "like all Indians," but captives were
said to have been unusual and no specific details are furnished.2"3
The Quapaw, who should probably have been included among
the tribes of the lower Mississippi River, did torture those not
selected by the women for adoption. After compelling captives
to dance and sing, they were scalped and fastened to a frame
made of two posts and a crosspiece on which they were tor-
mented by the young people.234 In 1706 they burned some
The non-Caddoan tribes of Eastern Texas and the Gulf Coast
have been accused of torturing, but, except for the Karankawa,
no details are available. The Karankawa, according to the only
description found, seem to have had cannibalism of the still
living victim as the motivation for cruelty:
225 Smith, Marian W.
226 Jesuit Relations, 55, p. 181-Blair, I, p. 161, footnote.
227 Blair, I, p. 169.
228 Dorsey, Omaha Sociology, p. 313.
229 Will and Spinden, p. 123.
230 Dorsey, Omaha Sociology, p. 332-Fletcher, p. 603.
232 Schoolcraft, IV, p. 53.
233 Dunbar, Par. 5.
234 Bossu, I, pp. 105 f.
235 Harpe, p. 35.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
. . they drive a big strong stake deep into the ground; to this they
securely tie the unhappy prisoner; they build a log fire all around him;
all of the rancheria, the tribe or confederation arrive, and when they
sound the funeral instrument called a cayman, all begin to dance in a
circle carrying in their hands well sharpened knives of iron (fierro) or
flint, or a piece of shell. When they see fit they go up to the patient, cut
off a piece of his flesh, pass it over the fire and dripping with blood, they
eat it in sight of the victim, . . In this way they go on tearing the
victim to pieces until he dies. . After they eat all of the flesh, they
divide the bones among themselves, and those who are able to get a piece,
go about continually gnawing and sucking it, until they consume it.
Sometimes they hang the prisoner up by his feet, building a fire under
him, let him roast, and then slowly eat him. Others make little pegs
from the pine of which there is an abundance on the coast, and stick
them into the body of the captive, set them on fire, and when they are
burned off, eat the larded corpse.236
III. SUMMARY OF TORTURE MATERIAL
The material which has been presented seems to indicate that
four patterns of torture can be defined within the region and
that these were geographically delimited. They may be classi-
fied on the basis of the method of securing the victim as Frame
torture among the tribes of the lower Mississippi River, Plat-
form torture of the Northern Iroquois, Pole torture of the
Chickasaw and Stake torture by several of the remaining groups.
There is little descriptive data on Stake torture other than mere
statements that the victim was tied to a stake and burned to
death. As will be pointed out later, there is evidence to suggest
that Pole and Stake torture probably do not represent distinct
complexes. The following table defines the more significant
differences between these torture patterns, certain aberrations
being temporarily ignored. Other elements of interest in the
torture complex are not subject to such comparative treatment
but will be discussed separately.
236 Morfi, pp. 51-52.
Frame Platform Pole Stake
Method of Bound by wrists Free to move at Fastened to Bound to a
securing and ankles to frame all times pole with stake
victim large radius
Place of In front of In cabin of War At last camp Within village
torture temple (?) Chief all night. outside village or where con-
On platform out- venient
side at dawn
Treatment Neither abused nor Continuously Continuously Continuously
prior to tor- insulted abused abused abused
Duration of Up to several days Many hours Few hours Moments (?)
Torture in- Men only Men in cabin, en- Women only Entire popula-
flicted by: tire population on tion (?)
platform at dawn
Manner of Under torture By knife or blow. Under torture Consumed by
death Not under torture fire
Scalping of Before torture Part of torture After death
Cannibalism Lacking Customary Lacking Lacking
Ceremonial Ceremonial scalp- Circumspect be- Lacking Lacking
elements ing. Touching havior by tor-
with brands by cap- turers. Dancing
tor. Dancing in and singing of vic-
front of temple, tim. Death on
Lack of abuse. platform at sun-
Use of frame. rise. Death by
Inflicted by men knife or blow.
only Cardiac features.
IV. WAR TROPHY PATTERNS
Torture was basically one method of disposing of war
trophies, specifically captives. Scalps might also serve as tro-
phies. Instead of being tortured, captives might be slain soon
after seizure, kept as slaves, adopted into the tribe, serve as
human sacrifice victims or be devoured, without any deliberate
torture accompanying these acts. The different attitudes ex-
pressed by such a variety of behavior patterns were reflected
in the treatment of scalps which might serve as sacrifice offer-
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INLJANS
ings, as a means of appeasing ghosts of slain warriors and
closing the mourning period of relatives, or merely ts symbols
of bravery worn by the scalper. The act of torturing cannot
be evaluated abstracted from its context in the total war' trophy
pattern and it will therefore be necessary to examine the related
elements in order to clarify the behavior exhibited in the torture
An analysis of the available material, unquestionably scanty
in many respect, indicates that three basically distinct patterns
of behavior towards war trophies were exhibited in the region
under consideration. These may be defined broadly as Old
Southeastern, Intrusive Southeastern and Iroquois.
Old Southeastern Pattern
The tribes grouped under this pattern are the Southern Cad-
doans, Natchez, Taensa, Tunica, Koroa, Calusa, Timucua, East-
ern Siouans, Southeastern Algonkians and Yuchi.
Scalps, or "Heads," seem to have been treated primarily as
sacrificial offerings to the supernatural rather than for ghost
appeasement or as badges of war prowess. The connections of
scalp trophies with the temples emphasize this sacrificial atti-
tude. After singing to the "heads" hung in trees the Hasinai
buried them in the ashes of the perpetual fire maintained in the
temple and offered food to them.287 Scalps were also hung on
poles during the dance prior to war 238 and were exhibited in
front of the houses.239 Food and tobacco were offered the scalps
which were carried by the women in processions.2"0 It is only
in the Plains-like culture of the Wichita that scalps seem to
have had the function of closing the mourning period.241 The
Pawnee used scalps ceremonially as offerings.242
This sacrificial attitude towards scalps and their connection
with the temples was observed among the lower Mississippi
River tribes as early as the time of De Soto:
237 Hatcher, 31, pp. 174, 217-Morfi, pp. 39, 40. Joutel may have seen temples
as he remarked on the large separate huts used for ceremonies and public gatherings.
Joutel, Historical Journal, p. 148 and Relation, p. 343.
238 Hatcher, 30, p. 124.
239 Hatcher, 31, p. 57.
240 Joutel, Historical Journal, p. 161.
241 Dorsey, George A., pp. 15-16.
242 Dunbar, Par. 3.
. . that thoy -~were going to cut their (Spaniard's) throats and put their
heads upore Lances at the entrances of the temples, . .243
Heads on lances at the doors of temples were also seen among
the Pacaha 244 by the De Soto expedition,245 and 150 years later
around Taensa temples by Tonty."46 In 1699 the Mongoulaches
and Bayagoulas were reported by d'Iberville as decorating their
temples with scalps.247
Although captives were desired as war trophies and 10 pris-
oners counted the same as 20 scalps towards the title of "Great
Man Slayer,'" scalps seems to have played the more significant
part in the trophy pattern. The torture victim was ceremoni-
ously scalped prior to torture.249 Scalps, not captives, were the
stated objective of a war party and were the trophy boasted
about upon its return.250 They seem to have been required for
the privilege of tattooing the body.2"' After taking a scalp the
warrior was compelled to submit to a period of continence and
obey certain food taboos."25 There is one reference to the use
of scalps to dry the tears of relatives of slain warriors by the
Scalping was not reported for the Calusa of Florida but
among the Timucua it was important."' If neither scalps nor
captives were brought back as a sign of victory, an innocent
Indian might be beaten to remind them that they must lament
for past losses.255 Scalps were immediately removed and car-
ried home on lances where they were set up around the Chief's
house, crowned with laurel, and became the center of the victory
celebration.256 This is suggestively similar to the Caddo and
Natchez practices of associating scalps and temples. Old women
carried the scalps in dances prasing the Sun for victory."2
248 Vega, p. 457.
244 Identified as Tunica by Swanton, Relation of the Southeast, pp. 62-63.
245 Vega, p. 411.
246 Tonty, Memoir, p. 61-Jesuit Relations, 68, p. 125.
247 Iberville, Historical Journal, p. 74.
248 Jesuit Relations, 68, p. 151.
249 Du Pratz, II, p. 429.
250 Du Pratz, II, pp. 421 f.
251 Du Pratz, II, p. 199.
252 Jesuit Relations, 68, pp. 151-153-Charlevoix, Historical Journal, pp. 167 f.
253 Jesuit Relations, 68, p. 149-Charlevoix, Historical Journal, p. 167.
254 LaudonniBre, p. 413.
255 Laudonniere, p. 462.
256 LaudonniBre, p. 464.
257 LaudonniBre, pp. 413-414.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS 197
Scalping may have been performed by special men appointed
for the purpose who furthermore mutilated and burned the
corpses.258 Scalps were set up on sticks along trails as a dec-
laration of war.2"5 Before taking the war-path the Sun was
asked for victory, and the women beseeched the leader to avenge
the deaths of their husbands.260
Little is known of the Eastern Siouan trophy pattern. Teeth
as well as scalps were taken.261 A curious use of scalps, perhaps
as a substitute for human sacrifice, was reported by Lederer
in 1669 for the Watary:
. . his (the King's) barbarous superstition, in hiring three youths, and
sending them forth to kill as many young women of their enemies as they
could light on, to serve his son, then newly dead, in the other world, as
he vainly fancyed. These youths during my stay returned with the skins
torn off the heads and faces of three young girls, which they presented
to his majestic, and were by him gratefully received.262
Scalping by the Southeastern Algonkians is not prominent
in the accounts of the Jamestown colonists. There is one refer-
ence to Powhatan ordering scalps hung on a line between trees
near his cabin.263
The Yuchi in 1906 recalled that scalps had been carried
stretched on hoops by the women relatives of the scalper in the
victory celebration.264 No earlier descriptions have been found.
The evidence which has been presented strongly suggests
that scalps were looked upon primarily as sacrificial offerings
to supernatural beings by the groups included in the Old South-
eastern Pattern. It is perhaps significant that the Aztec like-
wise impaled the heads of sacrifice victims around the temples.26'
It is difficult to distinguish slavery from adoption on the
basis of some of the accounts but it is probable that true slavery
did exist in the Southeast. Captives with the tendons of their
feet cut to prevent escape were seen by the De Soto expedition
along the Mississippi.26' Lawson made a similar observation
258 LeMoyne, p. 7.
259 LeMoyne, p. 13.
260 LeMoyne, p. 13.
261 Lawson, p. 198.
262 Lederer, p. 19.
263 Strachey, p. 36.
264 Speck, Yuohi, p. 85.
265 Sahagun, pp. 61, 110.
266 Vega, p. 419.
198 NATHANIEL KNOWLES
for Carolina 150 years later.2'" The same method for restricting
the movements of slaves was employed by the Aztec.268 Slavery,
probably among Eastern Siouans, was noted as early as 1525.269
It is probable that the Calusa treated Fontaneda and other
shipwrecked Spaniards as slaves. Cabeza de Vaca speaks of
his life in the vicinity of the Gulf Coast as slavery. Ortis like-
wise appears to have been enslaved by the Indians of Florida.
The Timucua took men, women and children captive 270 but there
is no account of their final disposal except the statement of
Charlevoix that women and children were enslaved and men
Powhatan was said to have kept women and children, and
even chiefs, as captives but their exact status is not clear.272
However immediate death seems to have been more usual for all
enemies regardless of sex or age.273
Adoption as distinct from slavery is not mentioned for any
of the groups in this Old Southeastern Pattern with the possible
exception that a Natchez woman could perhaps demand a captive
to replace her husband.274 There is no indication that such
adoption was at all an important factor in the disposal of cap-
tives as most reports state that all men were tortured.275 There
are no accounts of either slavery or adoption among the South-
ern Caddoans although the related Wichita apparently had
slaves.276 Such negative evidence is not very conclusive.
Human sacrifice was an important element among the groups
included in the Old Southeastern Pattern. Much of this sacrifice
did not involve captives directly or exclusively but included
relatives of a decreased person, children and slaves.
While the idea of offerings in the temples, including scalps,
was found among the Southern Caddoans, only one case of hu-
man sacrifice has been mentioned. This involved the immola-
tion of children when a "house" was burned.277
287 Lawson, p. 198.
26s Bandelier, On the Art of War, p. 139.
269 Martyr, II, p. 261.
270 Laudonniere, pp. 464, 469.
271 See p. 162.
272 Smith, A Map of Virginia, p. 106-Strachey, p. 107.
273 Smith, The General Historie, p. 358-Beverley, pp. 40, 150.
274 Du Pratz, II, p. 432.
275 Du Pratz, II, p. 428-Charlevoix, Historical Journal, p. 167-Jesuit Rela-
tions, 68, p. 149.
276 Dorsey, George A., pp. 7, 13.
277 Hatcher, 30, p. 303.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
On the lower Mississippi the extensive practice of human sacri-
fice was observed as early as the time of De Soto:
. commanded two young and well proportioned Indians to be brought
thither; and said, that the use of the country was, when any lord died,
to kill Indians to wait upon him and serve him by the way . and
prayed Luys de Moscoso to command them to be beheaded. . .27
An Indian boy, who had followed the Spaniards when they left
Guachoia, said that he, being an orphan, had been adopted by
the chief, but that:
. . when his generous benefactor had taken sick and died, they chose
him to be buried alive with him; because they said he was loved by him
so much that he ought to accompany him to the other world in order to
serve him there in his wants.279
Tonty noted the sacrifice of wives and retainers in 1681.S80
Ru, with d'Iberville in 1699, not only refers to Natchez sacrifices
upon the death of a chief,281 a practice which he also accuses the
Taensa and Colapissa of indulging in, but in addition notes that
they threw children into the fire because the temple had been
struck by lightning.282 This is confirmed by Penicaut.28 Gra-
vier mentions that children were sacrificed to appease a spirit
made angry because no one had been slain on the death of the
At the sacrifices upon the death of a Female Sun, scaffolds
were erected to hold the bodies of the victims strangled by their
relatives after they had danced in front of the temple.285 Char-
levoix states that the victims each mounted a separate scaffold
in a public place from which they descended to dance in front
of the temple from time to time. After three days each was
strangled by relatives of the Woman Chief.286 Families who
sacrificed children might thus obtain the rank of nobility.287
There is no indication that captives were sacrificed except in
so far as their position as slaves made this inevitable.
278 Elvas, p. 192.
279 Vega, p. 441.
280 Tonty, Memoir, p. 61.
281 Ru, pp. 35, 37.
282 Ru, p. 41.
283 Penicaut, Annals, p. 58.
284 Jesuit Relations, 65, p. 139.
285 Penicaut, Annals, pp. 92 f.
286 Charlevoix, Historical Journal, pp. 163 f.
287 Du Pratz, III, p. 44-Dumont, I, p. 181-Mereness, p. 148.
The Calusa were noted for human sacrifice and captives were
specifically allotted for this purpose:
The chief of the Caloosa immolated every years one person, usually a
Christian, to the principle of evil, as a propitiating offering; . .288
. the cacique and his father had sacrificed (shipwrecked Chris-
tians) to their idols.289
Sacrifices were made upon the death of a leading person as
well as to idols:
On the death of a child of a chief, his subjects sacrificed some of their
sons and daughters to accompany it on its journey after death. On the
death of the chief, his servants were killed. The Christian captives were
annually offered up as food to the idols, who were said to feed upon their
eyes, and a dance was performed with the head of the victim.290
Two Spaniards who had spent 15 years with the Calusa were
brought to LaudonniBre at St. Johns River in 1564:
Moreover they tolde me, that every year in the time of the harvest, this
savage King sacrificed one man, which was kept expressly for this pur-
pose, and taken out of the number of the Spanyards which by tempest
were cast upon that coast.291
Ortis was twice threatened with death by the Indians of
Florida. One of these threats may possibly have involved tor-
ture and not human sacrifice 292 although the context is not clear.
The second time sacrifice was definitely the motive:
These people being worshippers of the devil, are wont to offer up unto
him lives and blood of their Indians, or of any other people they can come
by; and they report that when he will have them do sacrifice unto him,
he speaketh with them, and telleth them that he is athirst, and willeth
them to sacrifice unto him.293
The sacrifice of children on the death of a King, probably by
the Timucua, is mentioned by LeMoyne, as well as a curious
sacrifice of a stuffed deerskin to the sun.294 The sacrifice of
prisoners to the sun by the Indians of Florida is referred to by
Charlevoix whose information is perhaps based upon the above
288 Brinton, p. 94-citing Barcia.
289 Lowery, 1905, p. 229.
290 Lowery, 1905, p. 230-Swanton, Early History, p. 389.
291 LaudonniBre, p. 482.
292 See p. 158.
293 Elvas, p. 126.
294 LeMoyne, p. 13.
295 See p. 162.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
The sacrifice of scalps to accompany the body of a deceased
warrior among the Eastern Siouans 296 was perhaps a substitute
for actual human sacrifice. Likewise Lawson's observation pre-
viously cited, that they believed the "Devil" would send a calam-
ity if captives were not tortured implies a human sacrifice atti-
tude towards torturing. Lederer's reference to human sacrilce
on the death of a great man among the Indians of western Caro-
lina and Virginia probably applies to the Siouans:
When their great men die, they likewise slay prisoners of war to attend
There are several accounts of the sacrifice of children or
strangers to a supernatural being by the Southeastern Algon-
kians.298 One description of "sacrifice" was probably nothing
more than an initiation ceremony involving feigned death by
Lederer's rather vague reference to the Oustack sacrificing
enemies to their idols is the only early account of Yuchi human
sacrifice.300 In 1906 an informant told Speck that Yuchi cap-
tives were not only tortured in the square grounds but were
also kept to serve as a sacrifice to the sun.1"'
Cannibalism does not seem to have been a practice of any
of the tribes with the exception of the Southern Caddoans.
Charlevoix does mention that men sacrificed to the sun were
eaten 02 but his authority for the statement is not clear. Al-
though cannibalism was charged against the Chichimecos o33 as
early as 1675 304 the source is very questionable in that the evi-
dence was in the nature of a rumor about unknown "heathen"
Indians outside the borders of Florida. Aside from such doubt-
ful cases there seems to be little basis for assuming any canni-
balism among the tribes of the lower Mississippi River or east-
wards, and there is specific denial by Vega that the Indians of
Florida practised it.305 There are, however, several descriptions
296 See p. 197.
297 Lederer, p. 8.
298 Strachey, p. 83-Spelman, pp. cv-cvl.
299 Smith, A Map of Virginia, pp. 111-112-Strachey, pp. 93-94.
300 Lederer, p. 21.
so 0Speck, Yuchi, pp. 85, 116.
302 See p. 162.
303 Identified by Swanton as Yuchi, Wenhold, p. 4.
so0 Wenhold, p. 11.
so5 Vega, p. 242.
of voracious cannibalism among the Southern Caddoans, and the
brutalities practised on captives o' seem to have been rather a
prelude to cannibalism than true torture. Joutel states that the
woman brutally killed was served up to two boys of her nation
and that they also ate dried tongues of their enemies.30 The
non-Caddoan tribes of eastern Texas and the Gulf coast were
undoubtedly voracious cannibals and it is possible that the
Southern Caddoans learned the usage after coming into contact
with them, perhaps due to a movement out of the southeast.
There is little to suggest that torture was a part of the war
trophy pattern of the tribes along the Atlantic seaboard. As
has been indicated in an earlier part of this study, no references
to torturing have been noted in this region until almost 200
years after white contact. Furthermore, it seems even more
significant that there are no expressions by the early explorers
and colonizers indicating any fear of such treatment. The
Europeans were only too willing in most cases to call attention
to the barbarity of the Indians, and thus justify their need for
either salvation or extermination. This is, of course, negative
evidence for the most part, although there are several specific
denials of torture, but the situation is striking in contrast to
the terror inspired at the time of the first White-Iroquois rela-
tions in Canada. One possible exception to the absence of tor-
ture in this region of the southeast might be the treatment of
Ortis. Details are lacking, and he may well have been threat-
ened the first time, as he was later, with human sacrifice without
torture, a practice undoubtedly present among the Timucua.
The few incidents of burning at the stake, referred to long after
the early Spanish contacts, were in the form so well known in
Europe, which had been used on the Indians by De Soto,
and undoubtedly by many others. It is not difficult to believe
that the Indians would learn to retaliate in kind. The Saponi
torture described by Lawson in the early eighteenth century
was not European in type, but was very like that of the Iroquois
with whom the Carolina Siouans were in contact at that time.
The probability that neither Siouan nor Algonkian speaking
peoples tortured except as retaliation against the Iroquois lends
weight to the suggestion that it was absent among the Siouan and
Algonkian tribes of the Southeastern Area. The evidence seems
so3 See p. 168.
307 Joutel, Historical Journal, p. 161 and Relation, p. 380.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
to be quite conclusive that none of the tribes along the Eastern
Seaboard tortured captives until long after white contact, and
when it finally appeared it was in retaliation against similar
treatment at the hands of the whites or the Iroquois.
In the lower Mississippi region, captive torture had many
ceremonial aspects, and was strongly oriented towards religion.
Dancing in front of the temple by the victim was one feature of
this ritual connection, a practice required of certain sacrificial
victims by the Aztec.3o0 Likewise respect shown to the victim
before torture began, torture probably inflicted in front of the
temple, participation by men only, and the ceremonial touching
with a brand seem to indicate that torture had an important
religious significance. Attachment of the victim to a frame was
unique in the Southeast and this, coupled with the ceremonial
application of the brand, perhaps suggests Mexican and Pawnee
contacts."09 Whether or not the Pawnee could have obtained
the frame from the Natchez is beyond the scope of this paper.
Other Caddoan tribes apparently lacked it. The parallels be-
tween Pawnee Morning Star Sacrifice traits and the Natchez tor-
ture practices are not impressive. The resemblances of the
Natchez practice to that of the Mexican sacrifice to a war god
or the sun are likewise not strikingly close, but seem slightly
more cogent than the other. Natchez torture was of a man, and
the association with the temple indicated sacrificial motivations.
The frames were nearly identical, but the possibility for varia-
tions in these is not great. Otherwise there are few similarities.
Cardiac features, cannibalism, and the use of the flayed skin of
the victim were not associated with the Natchez torture, nor was
death under agonies comparable to being shot by arrows. Nev-
ertheless, the basic concept of men being sacrificed to a god
may well have been of common origin, and the possible historical
connection cannot be ignored. It is also somewhat significant
chronologically, for if the Aztecs only received this ceremony
of frame sacrifice in 1506 it is quite possible that it would not
have reached the Mississippi until after the time of De Soto.310
His failure to note torture, although he did find human sacrifice
of a different sort, is not very reliable negative evidence, how-
ever. The supposition has been advanced that the late mention
sos Sahugun, p. 43.
309 Linton, p. 463.
o10 See Wissler and Spinden, and Linton.
of Natchez torture indicates that it was acquired as a retaliatory
measure against the Iroquois.311 There seems to be no adequate
grounds for such an hypothesis. A review of the material shows
practically no similarity between the two torture complexes, but
many striking differences. Perhaps more pertinent evidence
for the late appearance of Natchez torture is that it does not
seem to have spread to the neighboring Choctaw and Chickasaw.
Except for the brutal killing of a woman captive by the
women of the tribe, an act which bore little resemblance to insti-
tutionalized torturing, the Southern Caddo treatment of captives
seems to have been cannibalism, with the infliction of pain as
merely an incidental accompaniment.
To summarize in broad terms, it may be said that there is
evidence for an older culture in the Southeast extending from
eastern Texas to the Atlantic seaboard with a war trophy com-
plex, including related traits, which had as a basis:
Scalps as offerings to the supernatural, not associated with
mourning or ghosts.
Temples closely connected with warfare.
Human sacrifice to accompany the dead, or propitiate the super-
natural, but only incidentally related to warfare or cap-
Slavery, not adoption, for war captives.
Torturing absent, excluding late development in retaliation
against White and Iroquois, except on the lower Missis-
sippi where it had religious motivations and may have
been of relatively late origin.
Cannibalism absent, except among the Southern Caddoans,
where a late diffusion from the surrounding tribes is
Swanton has remarked on similarities between the Atlantic
Coast and the lower Mississippi region, in contrast to the inter-
vening area, which:
. suggests rather strongly that the Creeks were comparatively late
intruders into the section where they were found by the Europeans and
that, in the process of settling there, they had displaced some cultural
features which formerly extended unbrokenly from the Atlantic Ocean
to the Mississippi.312
311 Blair, I, 169, footnote.
312 Swanton, Aboriginal Culture of the Southeast, p. 718. See also p. 726.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Some of the traits taken to illustrate this were the use of ossu-
aries, artificial head deformation, use of poison to destroy ene-
mies, matrilinear descent without clans, and human sacrifice.313
Other traits could undoubtedly be included, such as absence of
mother-in-law taboo and a developed nobility with considerable
power in the hands of the chiefs."14
The data on the war trophy patterns of the Atlantic Coast
and lower Mississippi regions seem to confirm the underlying
unity of an older widespread culture in the Gulf region of North
America suggested by these parallels. It is perhaps identifiable
with the early Proto-Muskhogean of Bushnell which grew out
of a Yuchi-Siouan culture, and was basic to that of the Natchez,
Timucua, and Calusa.15 The unity of this culture is also indi-
cated by pottery similarities between early Caddo, Moundsville
of Alabama, Etowah of Georgia, and the northern Gulf Coast
of Florida.3'" The pottery of east-central Texas has been con-
sidered more like that of the Gulf Coast of Florida than of the
closer Coast of Texas.31
In addition to the tribes which have been specifically included,
the Choctaw should perhaps be added instead of being placed in
the Intrusive Southeastern Pattern. The information is not
complete enough on their war trophy patterns to indicate clearly
their position. Other groups, such as the Chitimacha, were
undoubtedly part of this older culture but their war patterns
are practically unknown.
Intrusive Southeastern Pattern
Into this underlying widespread culture in the Southeast
intrusions of other people with entirely distinct attitudes to-
wards war trophies occurred. These later arrivals may be
roughly identified as the Muskhogean Proper, although the exact
tribal conformation is confused. The infiltration of Choctaw,
Chickasaw, and Creek may have been gradual and accompanied
by a considerable amount of fusion with the earlier culture.
It is quite possible that the distinctive character of the new
culture was due to the Creeks alone.
813 Swanton, Aboriginal Culture of the Southeast, p. 718.
314 Swanton, Aboriginal Culture of the Southeast, pp. 696, 700.
315 Bushnell, Tribal Migrations.
316 Stirling, p. 21.
317 Pearce, p. 55.
. . the Creeks, who are believed to have entered the region in very
late times, but the de Soto narratives show us that in the early 16th.
century part of the Creeks did not conform to this pattern. I am there-
fore inclined to attribute the standardization of Creek culture to a Creek
tribe which arrived from the northwest at a late period, . 18
The earliest reference to scalping by these tribes is that the
Apalachee prized the scalps of De Soto's followers to hang upon
their bows."' In 1559 the members of the de Luna expedition
saw a pole about fifteen feet high full of scalps standing in the
center of the square of a Napochies (Choctaw) village.320
Scalps rather than captives seem to have been the significant
trophy of war and even in the case of a tortured captive the
scalp was carefully protected and used later in the victory cere-
mony held in the town square.321 Whole scalps were not neces-
sary. One cut up into many pieces would suffice as a trophy
for the entire war party and enable each warrior to advance in
rank.322 A scalp shared with a nephew or child, who was com-
pelled to sing under the blows of the donor, gave him recogni-
tion as a warrior."23 Scalps varied in value and their relative
merits were pronounced by the chief.322 So important was the
scalp that the Creeks were accused of killing members of their
own tribe to obtain the necessary trophy,325 and to prevent their
own scalps from falling into the hands of the enemy they scalped
their own dead.326 Ghosts of slain warriors who had either lost
their scalps or had remained unburied were refused admission
to the "Mansions of Bliss" until surviving friends retaliated
upon the enemy.32 This relationship between scalps and ghosts
was characteristic of all the tribes. They might be placed upon
the houses of the relatives of those slain without being
avenged,3"2 on poles near the houses "" or on the top of the
ceremonial sweathouse."0 The souls of slain warriors were
318 Swanton, Belation of the Southeast, pp. 64-65.
319 Ranjel, p. 152.
320 Swanton, Early History, p. 236-citing Davila Padila.
321 Adair, p. 397.
322 Adair, pp. 167, 298, 388, 397-Schoolcraft, V, pp. 297 f.-Hawkins, Sketch,
323 Swanton, An Early Account, p. 66.
324 Milfort, pp. 249-250.
325 Adair, pp. 258-259.
326 Milfort, p. 253-Adair, p. 387-Dumont, p. 46.
327 Pope, pp. 63-64.
328 Adair, pp. 167, 397.
329 Cushman, p. 254.
330 Romans, p. 75.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
supposed to haunt the eaves of their former dwellings 31 and
not to leave until the scalps were placed there."2 A report for
the Choctaw states that all war booty, which probably included
scalps, was given to relatives of deceased warriors to dry their
The ultimate disposal of the scalps is not clear. Undoubt-
edly they were often kept permanently on the poles or houses.""
There are some references to their use in ceremonies.3" They
were sometimes worn as a headdress during the Busk ceremony
at which time there was ceremonial scalping of effigies.36 An
informant told Swanton that the Alabama had buried a scalp
under the ceremonial ball post.33
The religious attitude expressed by the emphasis upon the
connection between scalps and ghosts is further brought out in
the requirement of ritual purity on the part of the warriors.
This involved sweating, fasting and drinking the emetic, or
Black Drink, both before and after war.38 Such ritual purity
was even practised by Creeks during the civil war."9 The in-
sistence upon continence during the war period protected cap-
tured women from violation."40 Another use of the Black Drink
in association with mourning was observed by Ru in 1669. He
noticed that Houma women drank water mixed with herbs and
attempted to spew it up as part of the mourning ritual.3" War
was definitely connected with the idea of pollution and failure
of a war party was blamed upon the impurity of the leader or
some member of the party, or even upon those who had stayed
at home.142 "Holy" men were forbidden to slay and no warrior
could officiate at religious ceremonies."" However, to counter-
331 Schoolcraft I, p. 210.
332 Adair, p. 151.
333 Bossu, I, pp. 294 f.
334 Bartram, Observations, p. 35-Schooleraft, V, p. 265.
335 Adair, pp. 310, 421.
336 Swanton, Religious Beliefs, p. 567 (citing Stiggins MS.)-pp. 572 f. (citing
337 Swanton, Religious Beliefs, p. 544.
338 Bossu, I, pp. 298 f.-Adair, pp. 119, 160, 166, 167-Milfort, pp. 238 f.-
Hawkins, Sketch, p. 79-Speck, Tastigi, pp. 109, 118-Schooleraft, V, pp. 538, 543,
388 Swanton, Social Organization, p. 436.
340 Adair, p. 164-Schooleraft, V, p. 272.
341 Ru, pp. 28-29.
342 Adair, pp. 163, 164, 166, 382, 416, 421 f.
84s Adair, p. 152.
act impurity contracted by attacking women in their menstrual
lodges, special herbs were carried.344
Except for one reference to eating the heart of a brave
enemy, cannibalism is denied for these tribes.'"5 Mutilations of
the dead in addition to scalping did occur 346 but seem rather to
have been a form of insult, similar to sodomy on a dead enemy,37"
with no cannibalistic connotations.
The placating of ghosts by the presentation of scalps was
quite distinct from the idea of using the trophies as offerings
to the supernatural at the temples found in the Old Southeastern
Pattern. Consistent with this difference was the absence of
temples and of any form of human sacrifice among these tribes.
The satisfaction of the religious demands through the taking of
scalps led to social advancement. Titles and war honors de-
pended upon them 548 and they were about the only way in which
such recognition could be obtained.
The emphasis upon scalps seems to have inhibited the en-
slavement or adoption of captives for the religious obligations
required the scalp itself and could not be satisfied by captives.
There was probably a certain amount of adoption 34 but it seems
never to have reached sizeable proportions. The Choctaw were
said to have "enslaved" women and children 350 but the connota-
tions are not clear. This relatively slight weight attached to
captives was of course changed by the introduction of the white
man's slave complex.
There is strong probability that torture was not originally
a part of this culture. As in the case of the Atlantic Coast
tribes, there is no indication of torture until almost 200 years
after European contact, and fear of such treatment from the
Creeks was apparently entirely foreign to the early whites.
Even at a late date, the evidence for the practice of torture is
extremely scanty. Both Bartram and Milfort report that it
had once been customary, but do not elaborate further. It is
unfortunate that there is not more information on the torture
at the slave posts, merely mentioned by Bartram. The reports
344 Adair, p. 124.
845 Adair, p. 135.
38e Romans, p. 75-Adair, p. 37.
347 Romans, p. 70.
348 Adair, pp. 147, 151, 193-Bossu, II, p. 42.
349 Adair, p. 154.
350 Swanton, An Early Account, p. 66.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
on the Yamassee torturing Spaniards and English in 1715 are
very sketchy. These acts were apparently retaliatory in nature.
Burning captives at the stake by the Apalachee in 1704 and by
the Chickasaw in 1736 were typically European in pattern.
Only the single account of Adair for the Chickasaw is reasonably
complete, and there is much in it to indicate that torture was not
integrated with the rest of the culture, but that the scalp was
the dominant motive in the war trophy complex. The victim
was turned over to the women to torture upon the return of the
war party. There is no suggestion that he was presented to
any one specifically with the idea of replacing slain relatives or
satisfying mourners. He was beaten and tortured outside the
village, and before the victory ceremonies were held in the square
grounds within the village. The scalp of the victim, carefully
protected during the tortures, was an important element in the
later ceremonies. The entire act of torture apparently had no
ceremonial connotations. The captive was not expected to dance
or sing at any time, and seems to have had no function in satis-
fying religious emotions or in providing social recognition for
This particular Chickasaw torture complex has been distin-
guished from the stake torture on the basis of method of secur-
ing the victim and the kind of torments employed. The under-
lying attitude of pure retaliation without ceremonial elements
would however indicate that it had much the same basis as stake
torture with perhaps the addition of a certain amount of, in-
genuity possibly learned at this relatively late date from the
Most descriptions of torture definitely suggest the white pat-
tern of burning at the stake. Retaliation as a motive appears
to be prominent in the few cases of torturing by the Muskhogean
Proper which have been recorded. The evidence seems quite
conclusive that torture in this culture was a late development
originating as a result of white, and perhaps some Iroquois,
contacts. It is possible that burning captives as a retaliation
against whites was sometimes fitted into the scalp complex for
an old Spanish resident of Florida told Bartram that the Indians
had formerly burned Spaniards to appease the spirits of slain
351 Bartram, Travels, p. 489.
The entire war complex of the Muskhogeans strongly sug-
gests the Plains in many particulars. This is especially true
of the great emphasis upon the scalp in connection with mourn-
ing, a function of much significance in Plains warfare.35 Such
elements as purification, absence of torture and cannibalism, and
the relatively few captives taken also resemble the Plains pat-
tern, and lend additional weight to Swanton's conclusions on the
movements of the Muskhogeans based upon other evidence:
It is evident that the culture of the central region (of the Southeast) had
been markedly modified by influences and probably invasion from the
The Natchez may well have taken over the idea of using
scalps to dry the tears of mourners from these tribes, particu-
larly the Choctaw, and added it to the older pattern in which
the significance of scalps was in their importance as offerings
to the supernatural. Purification may have been closely iden-
tified with the scalp relationship to the dead and been taken over
simultaneously by the Natchez. It is not, of course, yet clear
that the Choctaw were not a part of the older culture who were
more influenced by the intrusive culture than were the Natchez.
The third distinctive trophy pattern appeared among the
Northern Iroquois. Scalping was a feature of Iroquois war-
fare but not perhaps as significant as it was farther south where
Friederici placed its origin.5"" Scalps do not seem to have had
any connection with the souls of the dead warriors or to have
been given to their relatives. Perhaps an exception to this is
furnished in the account of Mary Jemison for the period after
1755 where the Seneca are said to have given scalps to mourn-
ers to dry their tears if no captives were available."5 Further-
more the idea of scalps as offerings to the supernatural is like-
Scalps seem to have been prized rather as badges of merit,
a sort of proof of valor, without any further connotations. The
scalper was evidently not permitted to make several out of one
352 Smith, M. B., pp. 452 f.
353 Swanton, Southeastern Indians, .p. 20.
354 Friederici, p. 428.
355 Seaver, pp. 59-60.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
'by cutting them up, and he was esteemed for the number he could
show, which implies that they were not given away.'56 Scalps
were painted and carried on poles,"5 and might serve to indicate
the number of slain enemies to the village upon the return of
the war party.'58 A report of 1634 states that the Oneida put
the scalps on Images carved like men on top of the gate to their
village.' Scalps were carried in preparatory war dances and
in the victory celebrations, and a post was "scalped" by each
warrior before setting out on the war-path.30" The torture vic-
tim might be scalped as a part of the brutality and without any
There are practically no references to trophies of war other
than scalps and captives. An early Dutch account speaks of
the Mohawk carrying home leg and arm bones,3"6 and a Jesuit
in 1626 noted heads being carried home."" At late as 1776 the
Wyandots and Migoes in Ohio were supposedly seen putting a
head on a post and dancing around it.364
Captives rather than scalps were the more desirable war
trophy and except for a relatively small number who were tor-
tured they were adopted by relatives of slain warriors as a
means of appeasing the dead. A vivid picture of a substitution
is furnished by the case of Father Poncet who had been cap-
tured by the Mohawk in 1653 and allotted to a widow for adop-
So soon as I entered her cabin, she began to sing the song of the dead, in
which she was joined by her two daughters. . and then I was in the
place of the dead, for whom these women renewed the last mourning, to
bring the deceased to life again in my person, according to their cus-
A captive might be given to a relative of a deceased person al-
though not necessarily of the same sex. The thirteen-year-old
a56 Heckewelder, p. 216.
357 Jesuit Relations, 39, p. 57; 53, pp. 145-147-Zeisberger, p. 105--Heckewelder,
358 Schooleraft, III, p. 188.
359 Unknown, p. 148.
36o Heckewelder, pp. 209 f.
s61 Jesuit Relations, 17, p. 65; 22, p. 259; 34, p. 27-Champlain, IV, p. 100-
Lindestrom, p. 242.
s36 Wassenaer, p. 85.
363 Jesuit Belations, 4, p. 201.
364 Leeth, p. 38.
365 Beauchamps, A History, p. 199.
Mary Jemison was adopted by two Seneca women to replace a
dead brother, for they considered her as sent by him to stand in
his place and help them."66 The relatives of slain warriors
might even originate a war party by offering presents to some-
one to organize one.867
The policy of adopting individuals and even entire tribes to
repopulate villages 38 carried the idea considerably further than
any other group in eastern North America:
It was not confined to captives alone, but was extended to fragments of
dismembered tribes, and even to the admission of independent nations
into the League.3"
After adoption the captives were treated as Iroquois in full
standing. Colden expresses this policy as follows:
It has been a constant Maxim with the Five Nations, to save the Children
and Young Men of the People they Conquer, to adopt them into their own
Nation, and to educate them as their own Children.370
Should the adopted persons be unhappy it was possible to return
home,37 but usually they would be content to consider themselves
as true Iroquois.372 Morgan's conclusion that prisoners were
virtually slaves for years does not seem to be substantiated by
the data available.373
However, allocation for adoption to replace a deceased rela-
tive did not necessarily mean escape, for, as has been indicated
under the discussion of torturing, many such individuals were
later given over to tortures."7 Also it was necessary for the
candidate for adoption to have his hardihood tested by running
the gauntlet, an act which has been referred to by Morgan as
the adoption ceremony. Only those reaching the house of their
adoptors by running through lines of people armed with clubs
were saved. Those who fell were instantly slain.'37 These
houses were not refuge places in the same sense as found among
the Creeks. There is one doubtful allusion to a refuge town."76
366 Seaver, pp. 57 f.
367 Jesuit Relations, 16, p. 205; 10, pp. 227 f.
3as Jesuit Relations, 43, p. 267.
368 Morgan, I, p. 332.
370 Golden, p. 110.
371 Morgan, I, p. 332.
372 Morgan, II, p. 277.
373 Morgan, II, pp. 277 f.
374 See p. 186.
375 Morgan, I, pp. 333, 334. Hewitt, The League of the Iroquois, p. 342.
376 Mooney, Myths, p. 208.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
Many of the Iroquois war trophy practices were character-
istic of the surrounding Algonkians. The Pottawatomi and Ot-
tawas,377 and the Sauk and Fox 378 extensively adopted captives
to replace the deceased, as did the Lenape and other Eastern
Algonkians. The Dakota Sioux did likewise in the case of
Hennepin,379 and the Winnebago 380 and Kansa 381 had a similar
practice. The Iroquois adoption pattern seems to have been a
widespread trait shared by the Algonkians and western Siouans
but not significant in the Southeast. Running the gauntlet upon
arrival at the village was in the nature of a test of the virtues
of the captive preliminary to adoption and, like adoption, the
Iroquois practice was characteristic of the Algonkians and
Siouans but absent in the Southeast.
The great fear in which the Iroquois were held by their
enemies was undoubtedly due in large part to the likelihood of
being tortured if captured, and in this sense torture acted as an
incentive towards submission. Its use to spread terror may
have been a secondary development which was, nevertheless,
consciously utilized, but there is much to indicate that human
sacrifice was the underlying motivation. The woman burned
and eaten as an offering to the war god was definitely such an
act.382 In many cases of the more customary torture of men the
sacrificial motivation was indicated by the insistence on circum-
spect behavior on the part of the torturers, the dancing and sing-
ing required of the victim, kindness to and feasting of the victim,
the requirement that death should occur only upon the platform
at sunrise, death by a knife, cardiac features, and cannibalism.
The feast of bear meat with the accompanying apology to the
war god for not having tortured and eaten captives is an ex-
cellent illustration of this motive. Most of the above features
were associated more or less completely with all torturing and
strongly suggest that, while lust for vengeance and the spreading
of terror may have become an important element, the concept
of a sacrificial offering underlay the act, a possibility mentioned
by Linton.83 This type of human sacrifice, however, would seem
to have little in common with that of the Southeastern groups
377 Blair, II, p. 162.
378 Blair, II, p. 197.
379 Hennepin, pp. 210-211.
380 Schoolcraft, IV, p. 53.
381 Hunter, p. 328.
382 See p. 186.
383 Linton, p. 462.
either at the death of a chief or periodically to propitiate the
Cases have been mentioned in which the life of a dog could
be taken in lieu of that of a man, and it has been suggested by
some that the White Dog Sacrifice was a late substitution for
human sacrifice.38 The ceremonial significance of the dog in
Iroquois culture was closely associated with war. An interest-
ing substitution is mentioned in one of the earlier Relations.
A man, being tortured by his friends in order to fulfill a dream,
substituted a dog, which was killed, burned, and eaten, "just as
were captives." "' Other animals might be similarly sacri-
ficed.38" Dogs were eaten in the feasts preparatory to going to
war,387 and in the adoption feast of a captive.88 A "madman"
in search of a man's head, and threatening a missionary, was
persuaded to substitute that of a dog.8"' The White Dog Sacri-
fice in the mid-winter ceremonies was observed in the seven-
teenth century. These dogs were strangled on the first day
of the ceremonies, and burned and eaten about the fifth day,
after being decorated to represent a god.390 The sacrifice of a
dog, with the subsequent eating of it, was a part of the curing
The ceremonial importance of eating dog flesh at the feast pre-
paratory to war had a wide distribution. It has been mentioned
for the Natchez 392 and likewise occurred among the Abnaki,8s"
Menomini,"89 Ojibwa,"95 Winnebagoes,"96 Oglalla,""9 Quapaw 98
and in Mexico.3"9 The Micmacs sacrificed dogs as a part of the
mourning ceremony."' There does not seem to be any particu-
lar reason why the ceremonial connotations attached to the dog
884 Beauchamps, A History, pp. 131 f.
a85 Jesuit Relations, 23,, pp. 172-173.
386 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 159.
387 Jesuit Relations, 9, p. 113.
388 Jesuit Relations, 42, p. 191; 13, pp. 43 f.
389 Jesuit Belations, 42, p. 43.
390 Hewitt, White Dog Sacrifice, pp. 940, 943-Fenton, pp. 7, 11.
391 Jesuit Relations, 13, p. 31; 57, p. 147.
392 Du Pratz, II, pp. 421 f.
393 Jesuit Relations, 67, p. 205.
394 Skinner, War Customs, p. 306.
395 Jenness, Ojibwa Indians, p. 102.
396 Schooleraft, IV, p. 52.
397 Kelly, pp. 197 f.
398 Bossu, I, p. 99 f.
399 Sahagun, pp. 58, 177.
400 Jesuit Relations, 2, pp. 93-95.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
among the Iroquois should be assumed to imply its use as a
substitute for human sacrifice. Furthermore, it was observed
as early as sacrifice and may well have been older.
While the only cannibalism in the Southeast, that of the
Southern Caddoans, gave evidence of having been acquired from
the neighboring voracious man-eaters, that of the Iroquois had
much resemblance to the eating of a sacrificial victim so prom-
inent in Aztec human sacrifice ceremonials.41' It has been sug-
gested that the Aztec acquired a liking for human flesh through
the religious compulsions to eat these victims,402 and this might
well have been true of the Iroquois. It must also be remem-
bered that the Algonkians, such as the Miami and Shawnee,
had Cannibalistic Societies to which captives were given, and
the Sauk and Fox were said to have eaten captives at one
time, all these cases presumably being without torturing.
Thus the Iroquois war trophy complex does not seem to
have had any very close similarity with either the older South-
eastern culture or with the intrusive Muskhogean culture. Cad-
doan-Iroquois relationships based on linguistic and presumed
pottery resemblances are not confirmed by the war complex.
On the contrary, it is very close to the typical Algonkian pattern.
The exception to this would be torturing which, as has been
suggested, was probably taken up by the Algonkians as a retalia-
tory measure against the Iroquois.
The Iroquois torture pattern had certain traits in common
with human sacrifice in Mexico. These included cardiac em-
phasis, death by a knife, eating of the victims, and perhaps
dancing and the use of a platform. None of these similarities,
except possibly the dancing of the victim, are found associated
with the frame torture of the lower Mississippi where Mexican
resemblances were of an entirely different order. Furthermore,
the evidence seems to point to a fairly recent accentuation of
torturing by the Iroquois, as it apparently was not shared by
the Cherokee until late wars with the Northern Iroquois, and
had not diffused to the Algonkians much before the early white
401 Sahagun, pp. 43, 52, 62, 75.
402 Loeb, p. 11.
Southern Iroquois and Shawnee
Certain Southeastern tribes have not been classified under
the three patterns as they seem to have occupied an intermediate
position between the Northern Iroquois and the Muskhogean
peoples to the south. Observations on these groups came rela-
tively late and are very scanty.
The extremely warlike Shawnee obtained a reputation for
cruelty but as has been indicated few descriptions of actual tor-
turing are available.40 Scalping was undoubtedly important
although its significance is not known. Scalps were cleaned,
dried, stretched on hoops and painted red.40' A tradition ob-
tained by Trowbridge from the Prophet mentions the scalping
of a warrior by one of his own tribe. This scalp was later sent
in a pot filled with blood to their enemies as a challenge for
war.404" Cannibalism seems to have occurred only in connec-
tion with the Cannibalistic Society.
Many captives were adopted, perhaps the most famous being
Daniel Boone who was their prisoner, and treated like a son, for
several months in 1778.405 Kenton was forced to run the gaunt-
let about that time. Six hundred Indians with sticks, toma-
hawks, and knives lined up for one-half a mile across a level
plain and compelled Kenton to run between them to a council
Torture among the Cherokee 407 was apparently influenced by
the white pattern of burning at the stake and also by Iroquois
methods. Here again the specific information is very scanty.
It is also difficult to evaluate their treatment of captives. How
extensive the holding of slaves was, before the development of
the slave trade by the whites, is difficult to say. They kept
many white prisoners as slaves after the war of 1760. These
were said to have been the property of their individual captors.408
Adoption was probably more customary than slavery on the
aboriginal level, although there might always have remained
the danger, to which Timberlake was exposed, of being killed to
revenge depredations committed against the adoptors by rela-
40s See pp. 177 f.
404 Seaver, p. 48-Spencer, pp. 44 f.
404a Voegelin, p. 7.
405 Galloway, pp. 260-261.
406 Galloway, p. 256.
407 See pp. 176 f.
408 Timberlake, pp. 40, 90.
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
tives of a slain warrior.409 Captain Bonnefoy and four other
Frenchmen, one a negro, were captured in 1741. They were
well treated and adopted into families, except for the negro
who was set free because he had been wounded. However, as
he did not use his freedom, but continued to follow them, they
gave him over to the young people who killed and scalped him.
Before the adopted captives were permitted to enter the village
they were compelled to sing for hours. Then they were tied
together two by two and marched around a great tree in the
village at the foot of which some of their hair was buried. They
were then taken to the council house where each was made to
sing four songs. After doing this they were washed and fed,
and were then considered as brothers."'
Scalps were an important war trophy, so much so that they
have been accused of killing one of their own tribe and pretend-
ing that the scalp was from a Shawnee.41 A war party re-
turned in 1761 with four painted Shawnee scalps on a pole
which was carried three times around the Town House and
then placed near the door.412 Scalps were carried by women in
the victory celebration held in the Town House.4'" Speck was
told that the scalps had been carried by singing and dancing
warriors in the Victory Dance, a part of the Eagle Dance, and
afterwards collected by the leader and put carefully away.414
Scalps were also said to have been carried on peace missions.415
There are no accounts of special purificatory rites upon the
return from war. However, success in war, as in hunting, de-
pended on the moral purity of the warrior.1' Warriors under-
went strenuous rites for strengthening their physical and spir-
itual powers under the guidance of the medicine men, and a
certain class of consecrated warriors used no other weapon than
the heavy oak or hickory war club.17
Practically nothing is known of the Tuscarora war trophy
409 Timberlake, p. 84.
410 Mereness, pp. 242-246.
411 Mooney, Myths, pp. 375 f.
412 Timberlake, p. 92.
413 Mooney, Myths, p. 376.
414 Speck, MS.
415 Speck, MS.
416 Logan, p. 26.
417 Speck, MS. The author is indebted to Dr. Frank G. Speck not only for full
access to his valuable manuscript material but also for many suggestions and criti-
pattern except that they killed Lawson.418 Captives were ap-
parently given to the "priest" and the woman of highest rank,
who compelled them to dance -as a sign that they had become
subjects. During the victory celebration each family occupied
a separate scaffold which they had erected near the execution
grounds. A fire was built near the scaffold and when a woman
became tired of dancing she returned and sat on the scaffold to
eat with her husband.49
1. Frame Torture
The Frame Torture of the lower Mississippi had many ele-
ments with sacrificial connotations. Such traits, however, were
entirely distinct from those associated with the Iroquois torture
pattern, and the resemblances with Mexico were consequently
not parallel. Whether or not the use of a frame indicates rela-
tionship with Mexico is not obvious. Should this be so, the
complex was probably acquired subsequently to 1506. Other
indications of its relatively late appearance in this region are
the absence of torture among the other peoples who were a part
of the Older Southeastern Culture, the failure of Frame type
torture to diffuse to contiguous tribes such as the Choctaw and
Chickasaw, and the lack of reference to it in the chronicles of
the De Soto expedition which do contain descriptions of human
sacrifice of a different type. On the other hand, the emphasis
upon war trophies, specifically scalps or "heads," as offerings
to the supernatural and associated with the temples, and the
importance of human sacrifice, not, however, connected with
warfare, might well have evolved indigenously into the sacrifice
of war captives. Whether the complex diffused essentially as
such from Mexico or was of independent local growth from the
same basic underlying concepts cannot be resolved until cor-
roborative evidence is brought out by many detailed analyses
of the cultures. The present evidence seems to favor the latter
assumption. It may be fairly confidently asserted, nevertheless,
that human sacrifice was the motivation for the Frame torturing
of captives, and that there were no connections,. except perhaps
41s See p. 166.
419 Graffenreid, Excerpts, Vol. I. Furnished through the kindness of Dr. John
R. Swanton of the Bureau of American Ethnology who suggested many pertinent
TORTURE OF CAPTIVES BY INDIANS
very remotely through a common Mexican origin, with the hu-
man sacrifice motive underlying Iroquois torture.
2. Pole and Stake Torture
Tortures in the Southeast which have been designated as Pole
and Stake Torture strongly suggest a European origin. The
absence of torturing among peoples of both the Old Southeastern
Culture and the later Intrusive Culture until long after the first
White contacts is indicated by the barrenness of the early
sources, both in respect to positive descriptions and failure to
suggest that the Indians had been feared because of the possi-
bility of torture. When torture finally did get into the ac-
counts almost 200 years after the arrival of the Europeans, it
does not seem to have been integrated into the cultures or to
have borne any religious or social connotations. Furthermore,
the common European pattern of the stake heaped about with
combustibles, unquestionably often inflicted upon recalcitrant
Indians by the invaders, was used. Stake Torture was there-
fore based upon purely retaliatory motives and was a recently
acquired reflection of the culture of Europe. It has been pointed
out that the Pole Torture of the Chickasaw was probably of the
same basic type as Stake Torture with possibly some Iroquoian
3. Platform Torture
The Platform Torture of the Iroquois appears to have been
based upon human sacrifice to the Sun or War God and to have
had certain resemblances to Aztec sacrifice. The rest of the
Iroquois war trophy pattern was very comparable to that of the
surrounding Algonkians, who were apparently receiving the idea
of torturing from the Iroquois and using it as a retaliatory
measure. That the intensive practice of torture by the Northern
Iroquois was of rather late growth is suggested by the proba-
bility that the Southern Iroquois did not use it until after com-
paratively late contact with the north and therefore it was not
a part of the earlier combined culture. Furthermore, the pene-
tration of torture into the Algonkian cultures was seemingly not
deep and was recognized as being of Iroquois origin. Perhaps
due to an upsurge of war interest the importance and numerical
amount of human sacrifice, a very old complex, increased, thereby
leading to a spread of terror of the Iroquois which was utilized
and emphasized to obtain submission of their enemies with the
consequent progressive brutalization of the human sacrifice
It must be emphatically repeated that these conclusions can
pretend to nothing more than a reasonable degree of probability
based on the available material. Only through detailed studies
of many other manifestations of Southeastern cultures will a
clear understanding of the functional integration emerge and
the historical factors be properly evaluated. Such studies will
obviously modify conclusions based on a limited segment of the
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