To inflict or subject to intense physical pain. Torturing their captive enemies seems to have been common practice among the early Indians. Indians only tortured prisoners when they had plenty of leisure time and were in the best of humor. It has been shown by historians that Indians never resorted to torture when they were angry. At such times they might kill their enemy, but it was only when they were in good spirits and wanted to amuse themselves that they indulged in refined elements of torture and cruelty.
Victims sought in every way to make their tormentors angry, knowing that then they would be quickly killed and put out of pain.
There was another aspect to torturing. It gave the victims a chance to show their fortitude and bravery. They would taunt their captors and appear to relish the most terrible pain to show their scorn. But at the same time the victim would sing his death chant, which was actually an appeal to his protecting god to save him, or give him more courage to stand the pain.
Thus while the Indian during his spare time would delight in thing up novel and more horrible ways to torture any prisoner who fell into his hands - to make him cry out in pain - he would also discipline himself to stand all kinds of pain so that he might never show by a groan or expression that he suffered under torture. When captured and tortured he wanted to prove a brave and honorable warrior.
Torture, then, was a kind of grim game - played by both captor and the captive. There were cases when Indians who could undergo the most terrible torture without showing their pain by word or expression, were admired by their captors that they were set free.
Women were notoriously more fiendish than men in torturing enemies. They would work themselves into fits of frenzy and would beat and stone prisoners to death. Old frontiersmen, finding the body of a victim with the head smashed by stones, would know this had been the work of women.
Fire was often used in various ways. Among Plains Indians, a victim might be staked out on an ant hill, where he would live for days. Or he might be buried up to his neck in the ground. Sometimes victims were sewed up in green rawhide and left in the sun. The rawhide would gradually shrink and crush them to death.
Running the gantlet was a favorite method of torture with the Iroquois and allied tribes. The prisoner would be made to run between two lines of people armed with clubs, tomahawks, and other weapons. He would be spared if he reached the chief's house or some other place pointed out to him beforehand. Among the Creek any prisoner who broke away and hid in a chief's house was safe.
In early history some Indian tribes ate some of the flesh of their victims in order to acquire their virtues. Such an act was not one of true cannibalism.
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