As regards the original Indian warfare, it was founded upon the principle of manly rivalry in patriotism, bravery, and self-sacrifice. The willingness to risk life for the welfare or honor of the people was the highest test of character. In order that the reputations thus gained might be preserved as an example to the young, a system of decorations was evolved, including the symbolic wearing of certain feathers and skins, especially eagle feathers, and the conferring of "honor names" for special exploits. These distinctions could not be gained unjustly or by favoritism, as is often the case with rank and honors among civilized men, since the deeds claimed must be proved by witnesses before the grand council of war chiefs. If one strikes an enemy in battle, whether he kills him or not, he must announce the fact in a loud voice, so that it may be noted and remembered. The danger and difficulty is regarded above the amount of damage inflicted upon the enemy, and a man may wear the eagle plumes who has never taken a life.It is easily seen that these intertribal contests were not based upon
 the same motives nor waged for the same objects as the wars of civilization—namely, for spoil and territorial aggrandizement. There was no mass play; army was not pitted against army; individual valor was held in highest regard. It was not usual to take captives, except occasionally of women and children, who were adopted into the tribe and treated with kindness. There was no traffic in the labor or flesh of prisoners. Such warfare, in fact, was scarcely more than a series of duels or irregular skirmishes, engaged in by individuals and small groups, and in many cases was but little rougher than a game of university football. Some were killed because they were caught, or proved weaker and less athletic than their opponents. It was one way of disciplining a man and working off the superfluous energy that might otherwise lead to domestic quarrels. If he met his equal or superior and was slain, fighting bravely to the end, his friends might weep honorable tears.
The only atrocity of this early warfare was the taking of a small scalp lock by the leader, as a semi-religious trophy of the event; and as long as it was preserved, the Sioux warriors wore mourning for their dead enemy. Not all the tribes took scalps. It was only after the bounties offered by the colonial governments, notably in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, for scalps of women and children as well as men, that the practice became general, and led to further mutilations, often stigmatized as "Indian," though in reality they have been practised by so-called civilized nations down to a recent period. That one should do murder for pay is not an Indian idea but one imposed upon the race by white barbarians.