Warbonnets were important ceremonial regalia worn only by chiefs and warriors. Also, only men wore warbonnets. (Women sometimes went to war in some Plains Indian tribes, and there were even some female chiefs, but they never wore these masculine headdresses.) Plains Indian men occasionally wore warbonnet headdresses while they were fighting, but more often they wore roach headdresses into battle (see below) and saved their war bonnets for formal occasions. In particular, long feather trailers were never worn on the battlefield. It would be impossible to fight while wearing them!
In the 1800's, Native American men from other tribes sometimes began to wear Plains-style warbonnets. Partially this was because of the American tourist industry, which expected Native Americans to look a certain way. Partially it was because many Native American tribes were forced to move to Oklahoma and other Indian territories during this time in history, so tribes that used to live far apart began adopting customs from their new neighbors. In most cases, the feather warbonnet did not have the same significance among the new tribes that adopted it. For them, it was a matter of fashion or a general symbol of authority. But for the Plains Indian tribes, feather warbonnets were a sacred display of a man's honor and courage, and each feather told a story. Eagle feathers are still sometimes awarded to Plains Indians who serve in the military or do other brave deeds today.
Roach Headdresses (Porcupine Roaches)
Feather warbonnets are better-known to popular culture, but roach headdresses (also called porcupine roaches or artificial roaches ) were the most widely used kind of Indian headdress in the United States. Most Native American tribes east of the Rocky Mountains were familiar with some form of roach headdress. These headdresses are made of stiff animal hair, especially porcupine guard hair, moose hair, and deer's tail hair. This hair was attached to a bone hair ornament or leather base so that it stood straight up from the head like a tuft or crest.Often the hair was dyed bright colors and feathers, shells, or other decorations were attached. In some tribes, men wore their hair in a scalplock or crested roach style (frequently given the name Mohawk or Mohican after two tribes in which roached hair was common), and the artificial roach was attached to the man's own hair.The Caddo man in the first picture is wearing his roach headdress this way.In other tribes, porcupine roaches were attached to leather headbands or thongs and worn over long hair or braids.This is how they are most commonly worn today.
Roach headdresses were usually worn by warriors and dancers. Like warbonnets, the porcupine hair roach is traditionally men's headwear, not worn even by female warriors. Their use varied from tribe to tribe. In many tribes, roaches were worn into battle, while more formal tribal headdresses (like warbonnets, otter-fur turbans, or gustowah caps) were worn to ceremonial events.In other tribes, roaches were worn primarily as dance regalia or sports costume.In some tribes, individual men chose to wear porcupine roaches while other men did not.Like other clothing styles, roaches sometimes went into and out of fashion.They were not generally as spiritually meaningful as warbonnet headdresses, though a boy earning the right to wear a roach for the first time was an important ceremony in some tribes.Today, porcupine roaches can be commonly seen at powwows, where they are still worn as regalia by male dancers from many different tribes.
Like feather warbonnets, buffalo horn headdresses were traditional regalia of certain Plains Indian warriors. These were helmets of buffalo hide with a pair of buffalo horns attached, frequently adorned with shaggy buffalo fur and a buffalo tail trailing behind.
In many cases ermineskins and war feathers were hung from the headdress, as in the second picture.Sometimes a horned headdress was even combined with a feather trail, as in the third picture.
The spiritual and ceremonial importance of horned headdresses to the Plains Indians was similar to that of feathered warbonnets. Only distinguished male warriors wore this sacred kind of regalia.Horned headdresses were rarer than eagle-feather warbonnets, because they were used by fewer tribes (only the Sioux and a few other tribes of the northern Plains wore this kind of headdress) and also because only warriors of certain clans or who had accomplished specific deeds wore bison horns.
Mexican, Central and South American Headdresses
The Aztec and Highland Maya Indians of Mexico were also famous for their feather headdresses , but these headdresses looked very different from the Plains Indian warbonnets. To make their headdresses, the Aztecs and Mayans sewed together a large fan of feathers and then attached it to the back of their head with straps and a headband or metal circlet.Another difference is that parrot, macaw, and quetzal feathers were used instead of eagle feathers.This style of headdress was not only popular in Mexico but also in Central America and in parts of South America as far south as Brazil.
Both men and women wore headdresses like these. They didn't have any connection to war, but in the Aztec Empire, the fanciest ones (adorned with gold, jewels, and jade stone) symbolized nobility. Today, feather-fan headdresses are worn as regalia by Nahua, Mayan, and other native dancers in Mexico and Guatemala, and colorful headdresses modelled on traditional Brazilian Indian ones are worn as costumes for Mardi Gras Carnival in Rio de Janeiro every year.
Original indian headdresses by the tribe Kariri Xocó (Brazil)
Headdresses made by me
Some time ago, I started to play many types of indigenousheaddresses and no one had taught me how to do them, I alwaysthought the beautiful headdresses, and after a study through pictures and descriptions of the materials, I began to do them. Andwhat was my surprise to find that the knowledge of how to producethem was hidden within me, I just needed to refine it and bring it to light. Below are photos of some pieces I made, some may bereproduced for anyone interested, others because they were madewith exotic materials are unique pieces. Contact us to place your order, the pieces below are just models and can be modified tocustomer's taste
Headdress made with hawk feathers and python leather.
Product without reproduction, sold to a collector.