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Coup - A term used by Plains indians for a brave deed or victory over an enemy.

The bravest act was that of touching an enemy while he was alive.  For this purpose the warrior might rush in and strike the enemy with his gun, quirt, bow, lance, or a long coup stick, or even with his bare hand.  If he also killed his enemy, after touching him while alive, and finally scalped him, he could count three coups.

Stealing a horse from an enemy would entitle a warrior to count coup.  He also could count coup by dashing into the enemy's village and striking or touching a tepee or lodge.  he was said to have "captured" the tepee, and whatever design or symbol was painted on the enemy tepee the warrior could paint on his own.

Should a warrior count coup on an enemy tepee, enter and touch a live enemy, finally kill and scalp him, and on his way out of camp steal his horse he would have plenty to boast about.

In general, it was a higher honor to touch a live enemy than to kill him or even scalp him.  The Assiniboin said: "Killing an enemy counts nothing unless his person is touched or struck."   The Cheyenne permitted three men to count coup on an enemy - the first who touched him, of course, gaining the greatest honor.  The Crow, Assiniboin, and Arapaho allowed four men to count coup.  The Cree believed that killing a man while out in the open was more honorable than killing him from ambush.  To kill him with a club rated higher than killing with a rifle or bow and arrow.

Various decorations were worn for each brave deed by a warrior.  The Assiniboin who had killed enemies wore an eagle feather for each deed.  The Dakota had exploit feathers, each indicating the feat the warrior had accomplished.  The Blackfoot coup striker wore white weasel skins.  The Crow wore wolf tails at the heels of his moccasins.  A gun snatcher put ermine skins on his shirt.  A subchief trimmed his shirt and moccasins with hair.

Related Information within this Site
[ Counting Coup ][ Coup Stick ][ Headdress ]
[ Indian Names ][ Scalping ][ Tepee ]