Indian Headdress: To Dress or Put to Rest?
Posted on March 07 2016
An Indian headdress and so as a crown gives us a sense of power. Whether to wear such power for good or fad is completely up to us. In a simple scope, we feel more than our usual selves when wearing ornaments deemed for supremacy. It takes us to a whole new plane of awe and beauty. An Indian headdress gives us a window of freedom even for a short while of parading it.
But as a non-Native, should we wear one?
It’s Remarkable History
With its proud feathers earned by reputable Indian warriors from the past, it is a true rarity. Indian headdresses manifest a symbol of great spiritual significance and attribution. Warriors welcomed as an adult member of the tribe receive their first feather and with each act of bravery, they earn another one. But beyond that, they enter a stage of preparation to be worthy of such an honor and delve into days of fasting and meditation.
As a warrior earn enough feathers to craft into an Indian headdress, he wears it into battle. Yes, he, as women aren’t allowed to wear full headdresses for it depicts patriarchy. Thus, the most prized of all feathers are earned by Indian chiefs. It’s called a Golden Eagle feather and it signifies the eagle as a messenger of God.
Now what could they have gone through to earn a golden one? I’ll hint on supreme strength, hardship, and loyalty, then leave the rest to your imagination.
Indian Headdress as a Cultural Reference
Nowadays, an Indian headdress brings vibrancy to different cultures around the world. Not just for its fascinating aesthetic but mostly for its cultural impact. Although let’s face it, those who need a historical refreshment see this valuable piece as a piece of fashion – something to make them seem cool.
However, the mere image of a Native American warrior has been planted in our memories as little boy scouts and girl scouts reenacting “Cowboys and Indians”. It may be child’s play, but most of us never really saw them as cute or fashionable, instead they are seen as icons for courage, honor, and valor.
Just as how Walt Disney portrayed Pocahontas and her courageous tribe for the whole world to see, we grew up believing Native Americans and everything that comes along with the beautiful tradition they represent are worth the pages of our history books, the walls of national museums, and every bit of our respect.
Indian Headdress as an Appropriation
As we all know, there has been an Indian headdress outbreak in major festivals such as Coachella to Glastonbury last 2012. Given that these festivities are reckoned as a global celebration, Indian headdresses were mostly worn as a reminder of an admirable ethos representing the main ingredients of a festival - music, freedom, and oneness. And by inviting their true selves to walk through the eccentricities of various cultures, Indian headdresses became one of festivals’ vital accoutrement for years.
Some Native Americans saw this as a mockery of their esteemed tradition and levelled it with racism and the use of “blackface”. Apparently, wearing an Indian headdress in a festival, soaked in booze (and probably drugs), half-naked isn’t the really showing the promised honor. What it only showed them was gawking naiveté and racial insensitivity.
Apart from Indian headdresses, other Native American regalia have been deemed offensive by fascists. Although 75 percent of Native Americans are okay with Washington’s football team, the Redskins, a campaign was still shaped to change their “insensitive” name, resulting to 79 percent of Americans voting for the name to stay.
According to the Washington Times leader writer, "Erasing the names of great Indian tribes from sports teams … might eventually destroy their memory. The greater injustice would be done to the Indians themselves." It brought others to claim that Native Americans might be acting over-sensitive about this issue, when there’s more to put into perspective.
This is when the fashion industry takes the blame. With media puppeteers that rule our box sets ever-commanding our minds, youngsters were introduced to a sexified Indian headdress styled to over-baring models in incendiary gestures. Musicians such as Pharrell Williams and Ellie Goulding, Victoria’s Secret Model, Karlie Kloss, and fashion designer Paul Frank were also triggered by the hype.
Even though appropriations were shedding light on us a few years back, the rise of provocative women wearing Indian headdresses boomed when the internet became more of a necessity in our daily lives. We have louder voices now and we can be heard all over the world. So, as the cry for appropriation breaks loose, so as the generation of self-expression.
With traditional wisdom coming from our thirst for awareness and modern wisdom at the tip of our fingertips, we get to know the gems of the past and be able to seek new horizons for cultural blending and self-exploration. In this age of selfies or the more intellectualized sense of individualism, value for inner self is as beautiful as life itself. Wearing an Indian headdress heeds inspiration to be more than what we are now and strive for more.
A Mockery or Admiration?
This may seem thorny in our super hypersensitive world where everything is heightened by social media and politically righteous personas take the spotlight, raging far-left rights at the drop of a hat.
So if that’s how it is, should the Samurai swords stop production because of its historical military nobility? Or how about the nun headdress - aren’t we all aware of its great significance, while we use it as a form of satire? And just like the Indian headdress, should a turban or a crown only be worn by royalty?
Furthermore, how come we promote gender equality but bash women wearing Indian headdresses because it’s traditionally made for men? Why is it so iconic to think out of the box and break normalcy, whilst wearing an Indian headdress with pride is taboo? We highly adore Shaolin monks and portray them widely through media, yet doing the same for Native Americans sets hate-fire.
How is wanting to exist in a wide-eyed world reachable by banning an Indian headdress? What will be left of our cultural references if each race will tie exclusivity ropes around their prided beliefs? What will be of films and dignified role-playing, if not as an extension of our vast appreciation for their culture?
An Indian headdress is not worn with a mindset of false pretentions, more than anything else, it’s a universal boost to be super-human – that you can be super-human as well. It lets us experience the majestic world of the warriors they depict and in turn, paints new possibilities for us. We bet, there are better ways to support indigenous people, and this fuss is not the best way to earn acknowledgment but spells a bit of cultural segregation.
Isn’t this what it’s all about - reviving past influences and blending contrasting beliefs for a brighter spectrum? Isn’t this what life is all about – keeping the flow?
At the end of the day, an Indian headdress and so as a crown gives us a sense of power, but whether to wear such power for good or bad is completely up to us. Now, how should we wear it?