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NEZ PERCE SCALP DANCER

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This piece was based on an account given by Dean Pollock in his book Joseph, Chief of the Nez Perce:

“…As darkness fell over the Clearwater battlefield, the chiefs offered fiery speeches over campfires in an effort to fill the hearts of the warriors with courage for the next day’s battle.

"Soon the dancing began, the chanting became louder, the beating of the drums intensified, the number of fantastically painted dancers increased. The sweating figures whirled, stamped, howled and leaped like demons-—swinging their tomahawks and knives as though cutting their foes to bits.

“When a squaw threw a scalp into the circle, the dance turned into a savage frenzy. Crazed warriors pounced upon the scalp, trampled it into the dust, and tossed it about in the churning throng..."

One of the warriors, “Wounded Head,” is seen here wearing his “Hemene” or spirit keeper, a strip of wolf’s hide, that was kept for the purpose of going to war and engaging in battle. The “Hemene”, once given by its spirit, instills in the warrior the strength and the power to face battle and go through it without danger.