Plains Native Americans - Coup Counting Illustration

Coup Counting
Native Americans
in Olden Times for Kids

Point Count: In olden times, in the plains, warfare developed into almost a game. There was a point system for various acts of bravery. A warrior received the most points for touching a live enemy in combat. The next highest point award was for touching a live enemy with a bow. There was a higher point count awarded for spearing an enemy than for killing him with an arrow. This system was called counting coup. Warriors each kept their own count. They were believed. Lying was not part of their culture.

Feathers and Face Painting: he award for a coup was to be able to paint your face in certain ways, and to wear certain feathers. When you prepared for war, you wore your war feathers and war paint. This told all the warriors what honors you held.

Becoming an "ace": If you had four or more coups, you were an ace. You could then hold a position of leadership in your tribe. Leadership was not hereditary. You had to earn the right to lead as a reward for personal achievement.

Other Way to Earn Coups: There were other ways to earn a coup. One way was to steal a horse from another tribe. You received more points if you stole a horse that was tied a tepee than if you stole a horse held in an open field. If you were caught trying to steal a horse, the people from whom you were stealing would kill you. This was understood. The more risk, the more points. You could also earn coups with acts of bravery and achievement when hunting buffalo and other large game.

Pictorial Records: Warriors were proud of their coups. They would paint a pictorial record of their achievements on the sides of their tepees, and occasionally on the bare side of their buffalo robe.

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