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Harriman, Bettie R.; Harriman, Neil A. (ed.) / The passenger pigeon
Vol. 68, No. 3 (Fall 2006)

Leese, Benjamin E.
Scarlet scalps and ivory bills: Native American uses of the ivory-billed woodpecker,   pp. 213-226


Page 213

Scarlet Scalps and Ivory Bills: 
Native American Uses of the 
Ivory-billed Woodpecker 
Benjamin E. Leese 
886 Menges Mills Road 
Spring Grove, PA 17362 
Ben.Leese@valpo.edu 
ABSTRACT 
A variety of evidence from eyewitness ac- 
counts, artifacts, and Native American sto- 
ries illustrates the significance of Ivory- 
billed   Woodpeckers     (Campephilus 
principalis) to Native Americans. This 
paper reviews the evidence from various 
tribes of the Great Lakes and Upper Plains, 
and suggests courage and hospitality as the 
primary symbolisms associated with the 
species. The paper confirms the previous ob- 
servation of the great importance attached 
to the scalp and bill of the species and trade 
in those body parts. Reviewing the value of 
the species to Native Americans helps to es- 
tablish what kind of evidence from Native 
American artifacts can be used in deter- 
mining the former range of the species. 
INTRODUCTION 
Anyone seeking to understand the 
life history of the Ivory-billed Wood- 
pecker (Campephilus principalis) will 
eventually have to make sense of re- 
mains of the species found among the 
artifacts of Native American tribes 
(Jackson 2002, 2004). Some of those 
artifacts might represent genuine 
parts of the historical range of the 
species, but many likely represent 
items that entered the area through 
trade. Understanding the value placed 
upon the bird governs how its body 
parts may be interpreted as part of the 
ornithological evidence. For instance, 
if a bird's body part had little ritual 
value in a particular area, its remains 
found in an archaeological dig in that 
same area would indicate past occur- 
rence. But if the bird's body part had 
great value, then its remains would 
most likely indicate trade for the arti- 
facts if they were found far outside the 
known range of the species. 
In the case of the Ivory-billed Wood- 
pecker, trade in body parts of the 
species is widely noted, especially in 
the case of its bill and scalp (Catesby 
1731, Audubon 1840, Tanner 1942). 
The presence of an ivory-bill bill in a 
Native American grave in Colorado, 
far outside its historic range, further il- 
lustrates its important trade value (Bai- 
ley 1939, McAtee 1942b). However, 
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