You may be seduced by the dramatic play of colors streaked on Indian headdresses you see in Coachella or Instagram because they seem like trippy eye-candies depicting the teeming Native American culture. It’s an open invitation to be celebratory and who wouldn’t want to be in that bandwagon, right? But there’s so much more to it than its striking facade and there are other kinds that are just as beautiful. Dare to start?
(Picture via TheFirstScout.com)
Before we begin, let’s underline some key slices vis-à-vis with the Native American headdress. When you see a feather headdress, you taste a gist of the peoples’ arts. It gives off a pure vibe, like being closer to natural matter- wind, fire, mud, trees, and everything un-void. While feathered headdresses were not worn by every tribe in the Western Plains, most of them created different kinds reflecting their rituals and ranking flow.
Flourished with esteemed feathers for each act of bravery, the Indian headdress holds great value and is pegged as a medal of honor. Each piece of feather is gifted with a spiritual significance that’s why they used elements from animals such as fur, hide, leather, and feathers - elements that possess life. Unlike a customary medallion made of stones and what not, an Indian headdress carries rudiments from other living beings as they believe that the power of these animals can be transferred to the Great Spirit through those who wear the piece.
Indian headdresses have become a familiar festival accoutrement for years, but with the recent ban on celebrities such as Pharrell and Ellie Goulding, some of the biggest festivals were also influenced to set aside this culture booster. As much as we love to show our innate adoration for this regalia, some Native Americans see it as a mockery that feeds on stereotyping and racial insensitivity.
The thing is, there are people who are very aware of its sacred significance but choose to wear it anyway as a sign of evolving freedom of expression. As long as they wear it with pride and not pretend to be Chiefs or medicine men, it is then treated as a physical manifestation of cultural appreciation. Whether you choose to wear it or not, it is solely up to you. At the end of the day, it is cultural blending in its simplest form and the whole world is welcome to broaden their horizons.
Now, get your eyes ready for a divine treat. Here are some of the most beautiful native American headdresses from different tribes that are still worn today.
Tribes such as the Sioux, Blackfeet, Crow, Plains Cree, and Cheyenne wore headdresses with rows of eagle feathers plunging in a long trail up to the feet. Because of its longer guise, it is never worn for battle for swift moves are impossible. Aside from feathers, Plains Indian warbonnets were often adorned with ermine skins
and fancy beadwork and at times a feather is painted with a red pigment to celebrate a tour de force. Chiefs and notable medicine men of particular tribes were only granted to don certain kinds as extraordinary vigor and deep knowledge is referred to them.
Straight-up Feathered Warbonnet
Another unique kind of Indian headdress is a straight-up feathered one that is actually taller and narrower for its eagle feathers stand up straight. For the new tribes that have adopted the feather headdress, it doesn’t come with the same significance compared to the Plains Indians who think of the headdress as a sacred ornament and a symbol for valor.
(Picture via ephemeralbk.com)
Its oval shape with feathers fanning out contouring the face made it an attractive accessory world-wide. Halo Indian headdresses shape our faces and accentuates our soft human features like how a peacock stands majestic before its dazzling tail or a lion is ever-powerful with its commanding hair. But aside from its flattering aesthetics is a remarkable history worn by those they deemed to be legends.
(Picture via souringeagles.com)
Crafted from otter fur with the otter's tail hanging behind or sticking out to one side in a beaded sheath, fur turbans or otter-skin caps are also deemed for its intricate design. They are ritual headdresses worn by men in some Prairie and Southern Plains tribes, such as the Osage, Potawatomi, and Pawnee.
The turbans and tail sheaths were frequently beautified with beaded and painted imagery manifesting the wearer's war feat, while a chief and his bloodline connect eagle feathers at the back of their turbans for ceremonies and other spiritual instances.
(Picture via coveryourhair.com)
It may be considered as a pigeon-hole for Indian women – two braids hanging on each shoulder capped by a feather headband - but it is actually only used by a few tribes in the northeast Woodlands. Both genders wore headbands which were not linked with war but relatively worn for their mere beauty. It’s often decorated with quillwork, creative patterns, wampum and beads.
Woodland Indian headbands comprised of a finger-woven or beaded deerskin strip with tribal designs on it and after that tied around the temples with an eagle feather, or hawk, crane, and egret feathers, slipped at the back.
(Picture via Pinterest)
Aztec and Mayan Headdress
With its more festive vibe, it is easily set apart from usual war regalia. Aztec and Mayan Native American headdresses, unlike the Plain Indian kinds are worn simply for its splendor. They didn’t have any connection with sacredness and is usually worn with the fanciest adornments such as jewels, and jade stone, and gold to parade nobility.
By sewing together a large fan of feathers from macaws, parrots, and quetzals and styling it to the back of their head with straps or a metallic circlet, these colorful feather headdresses become the most vivacious jiggers for celebrations such as the Mardi Gras.
(Picture via Tiffany Quake via Youtube)
Feather headdresses are beaming in the pop culture today but roach headdresses or porcupine roaches are the broadly used ones in America. They surge of stiff moose hair, porcupine guard hair, and deer's tail hair that is hooked on a bone hair embellishment or leather base so it could stand stern upright like a crest. Coming from the name Mohawk or Mohican, the roach is linked to the wearer’s own hair and is tinted with intense colors before being donned with feathers, shells, and other knick-knacks.
(Picture via Pinterest)
Since only the Sioux and a few tribes from the northern Plains wore this kind of Indian headdress, it is rarer than a feathered one and is only worn by warriors of particular clans who had done a masterly deed. Aside from its intimidating bull horns as a sign of animal embodiment, it is also decked with a shaggy buffalo fur and a feather trail finishing up to the ankle.
(Picture via Pinterest)
Twined caps or basket hats from the west of the Rocky Mountains were made from tightly coiled sumac. Both men and women from Northwest Coast tribes, Haida and Salish wore basketry Indian headdresses for ceremonies, dance regalia and everyday living. These one of a kind hats are usually enlarged in conical or brimmed shapes rooting from fibers like cedar barks or spruce roots.
(Picture via susanjtweit.com)
Indian American Mask
There’s a whole other collection of bizarre masks used by Native Americans from Alaska to Argentina. Most of these tribes carved masks from wood and draped them with leather and fur. While Plains Indians usually crafted animal masks from the skull of a bull, bear, buffalo or wolf, some tribes like Tuscarora and Seneca treated face masks as a sacred ritual that we can’t even snap a picture of them.
(Picture via dailymail.co.uk)
As beautiful as they look, as much as we want to embody their essence, and the more we embrace their significance, wearing them is still a debate. These headdresses animated the Native American culture from the beginning and up to the new generations. For sure, they will be equally mystified in wearing a piece of history that has shaped who we are now.