After the Mexican-American War
Ironically, the Mexican peoples finally received relief from the Apache and Comanche raids when the U.S. declared war on Mexico; the U.S. soldiers spent their spare time chasing and hunting the natives. However, without the protection of Kirker and the other Anglos, Chihuahua was again besieged and in 1847 raised the price of scalps to $200. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, most of the Mexican states revived their scalping bounties again in preparation for more raids (there is little mention of the discontinuation of these bounties- I would speculate though that after the immediate threat was gone they were repealed until the attacks resumed). In 1849, Chihuahua's "Ley Quinto," which would remain on the books until 1886, passed setting a price of $150 for live women and children, $200 for the scalps of warriors, and $250 for live warriors. Most professionals though felt that the extra $50 did not justify the increased risk and so traded in "receipts" only. Durango passed similar laws the same year, and in 1850 Sonora set the price at $150 for warriors and $100 for women and children under fourteen. By mid-1850 Chihuahua and Sonora had included the Seri Indians on their hit lists too. The details of the scalp bounty laws reveal that this wretched business was indeed a business with its own self-policing practices. States, to prevent fraud, defined "scalps" to include one or both ears or the crown (a fresh scalp could be stretched before it was dried and cut into up to a dozen "scalps"). Regulatory committees were also established to examine scalps, but these were often bought off so that the scalps of children were purchased as adults, etc. (As a brief aside, a method of scalping and preserving the receipts was dictated by several of the scalp hunters. In James Kirker's party the duties were relegated to the Shawnees in the group who would cut around the crown and then sit with their feet on the shoulders of the victim and yank the trophy from its place of origin. The scalps were then sprinkled with salt and tied to poles to dry so that they would not deteriorate before they could be sold.)
The rather liberal payment policies of the local authorities made the scalp industry highly profitable. Indian hunters could keep any livestock or loot they recovered, civilians, soldiers, Mexican nationals, and foreigners were all eligible, and unquestioning inspectors all enticed unscrupulous men into this business. Mexican scalps were just as good as Indians, the scalps of women and children were bought for $100 (although the law made no provisions for this), and the bounties were advertised both in Mexico and North of the Rio Grande. Many of the scalp hunters were former Texas Rangers or forty-niners searching for quick cash. Some of the more famous include Major Michael Chevallie, James Kirker, Capt. Michael Box, John Glanton, and John Dusenberry. Other Americans also participated for a different type of payment; the state of Coahuila promised land to groups of Seminoles and a group of run-away slaves led by John Horse (Juan Caballo) in exchange for their services as Indian hunters.
The years of 1849-1850 were the true boom time, but an industry like this can obviously get out of hand (if it didn't begin by being out of hand). From the accounts it seems that no one in the South-west was safe during that year. The recent war with Mexico and the dark hair of the Mexican farmers made the peons easy targets when Indian scalps became scarce or too dangerous to acquire. Scalpers also began slaughtering any natives they could run down, including peaceful tribes like the Pimas and Yumas. Kirker and Box supposedly made rather large profits hunting agricultural tribes along the Rio Grande and Sierra Madre. Groups would also masquerade as natives and raid local villages, an act that served a dual purpose. It reinforced the necessity of the bounty laws and provided scalps that could be then sold to the governors responsible for protecting the village. The authorities did begin to notice that whenever Glanton or other hunting parties passed through a region, Indian activity always increased; a fact that led to many hunters being run out of Mexico and eventually helped to ruin the industry. Scalping as a business peaked that winter when the natives were driven out of the mountains in search of food; in one raid in the Big Bend country Glanton supposedly took 250 scalps (a fact that doesn't appear in Chamberlain's account, so it may have been another scalper). By that spring though, Chihuahua alone had paid out over $17,000 to scalp hunters. Many of the Mexican states found that they did not have the money to pay the scalping parties or that the expenditures were growing to a point where they would soon be bankrupt- another element that helped bring an end to the trade.