Photographer: Leonardo Kalidi
Our admiration for Native American headdresses is pretty obvious. However we would like to enlighten the original meaning behind those beautiful Indian headdresses and what they´ve meant for the indigenous Indians in the past.
The main components of a chief headdress or a so called war bonnet are the feathers itself. In the past brave warriors could earn feathers for exceptional behavior or success in a battle. Since usually only men took part in those fights, they were the only ones who could gain feathers and therefore a headdress. Each feather had a special meaning; most of the time a male tribe member earned his first feather when he was accepted as an adult in this tribe. Any other feather could be earned if he proved to be a courageous, influential warrior. The best friend of the hero would keep the feathers for him until enough were collected to create a Native American headdress from it.
The Sioux are believed to be the first tribe who introduced the native American headdress. Other tribes followed however the feather headdresses always reflected the culture of each tribe which made every war bonnet unique.
Usually feathers from hawks, crows and eagles were used for those Indian headdresses. However the most precious one was believed to come from the eagles as they were extremely hard to get and as native Americans believed the bird was a messenger of God itself. The Golden Eagle feather could only be earned by proving loyalty, hardship and strength. The process of getting an eagle feather was quite difficult as the feather had to be removed without hurting the animal. Therefore the native Americans had to trap the bird and sing to it while removing one single feather at a time.
Native Americans believed that wearing a chief headdress would duplicate the powers of the eagle and would be a way to gather wisdom. Also the war bonnet meant the world to the warrior and was also understood as an extension and representation of his beliefs.