About Indian Headdresses

Published on March 11, 2014 by Amy

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Native American Headdress
About Indian Headdresses

Indian headdresses are an iconic item in Westerns, American tourist shops and photos from American history. They are often represented by the long plume of feathers that goes over the head and down the back. There are wildly varying styles of Indian headdresses, since their primary historical use was to differentiate tribe members. Beaded headdresses were not seen until the 1800s when Native Americans acquired beads from European settlers.

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Indian tribes vary significantly in their choice of headdresses. Historically, Indians wore differing headdresses to tell tribe members apart from a distance. The most iconic headdresses are ones with large feathers sticking straight up and going down the wearer’s back. These were worn by the Lakota Sioux Indians and a few other North American Plains Indians. Warriors and leaders of the highest honor wore such headdresses. Each feather represented a brave act that the owner had accomplished. As such, they were not nearly as common as the media represents.

Feather Headdresses

These types of headdresses incorporate feathers from many different birds and can have varying styles. For instance, the Kayapo Indian headdresses from Brazil have plumes that go directly out from the head. They are made from macaw and stork feathers, two endangered birds. War bonnets are the headdress with the iconic trail of feathers that goes from the top of the head down to the middle of the back. These are made from eagle feathers.

Other Types of Headdresses

Other types of Indian headdresses carry a style all of their own. The Yoeme of Sonora, Mexico wore a deer head; the head was fully intact, including the antlers. The deer head was attached to a cap that had leather straps hanging down. The Yoeme would tie leather straps under their chins to keep the headdress secure. Other headdresses are simply caps with horns on them. Indians added soft fur to headdresses as well.

Indian Headdresses and Beadwork

Later headdresses of the Plains Native Americans had intricate bead-work on them. This was not done before the arrival of European settlers and was not popular until the mid 1800s. Settlers provided the glass beads to Indians through trade deals. Native Americans first stitched beads directly onto leather. By the late 1800s, Native Americans used looms to weave beads together using sinew. Geometric patterns made of triangles and Vs were favored by the Plains Indians.

Source: ehow

NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com Unabridged
Based on the collective work of NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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