Warbonnets and Indian Headbands

Indian War Headdress

Indian War Headdress

One headcovering that has captured the American imagination is the Indian Warbonnet.

Getting specific, the Warbonnet that has most captured the American imagination is what is known as the “trailer bonnet” which is a sort of headdress with a single or double row of  eagle feathers going down in a long tail till the ground.

So what exactly is the Indian Warbonnet?

Well it is believed to have originated among the Sioux Indians and was common among the Plains Indian Tribes. However, the Indian Warbonnet was not your typical headcover.  Typically it was made from eagle feathers and each feather was hard won. In order for a young brave to earn a feather, they had to carry out a feat of bravery or danger. An example of this would be if a brave was the first to touch a fallen enemy in battle which meant that they were at the front lines of battle. With each such feat that an Indian performed they were awarded a feather.

Once a suitable number of feathers were amassed the male friends of the indian would bind them to together to make a headdress. Of course, the headdress itself was usually not worn into battle.

However while the Indian Warbonnet was a unique item that was hard earned the typical Indian Headband was very much not.

The Indian Headband was usually a finger woven or beaded deerskin strip with tribal etchings and a couple of feathers tucked in the back. These Headbands were more of a “fashion statement” if you will, and were worn by Woodland Tribes. Unlike the warbonnet these head bands had various types of feathers, for example, turkey or hawk feathers.

Interestingly, because the Warbonnet was a central and important object in Indian life there are many Indians today who strenuously object to people selling, purchasing, and wearing these head dresses just for fashion.

(Sources include Beyond Bucksin, Indians.org. Wikipedia, and Native American Languages)

By: B. Levi


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