The Many Variations of Native American Headdresses

The Many Variations of Native American Headdresses

Aboriginal headdresses, no matter the type had to be earned to wear.Most headdresses were worn by men, like the warbonnet, roach and buffalo headdress. There is also a unisex headdress: the feather headband. And the female beaded tiara. These headdresses are adorned to those who have done something courageous, brave, someone who is of high authority and some are for formal regalia.


Many people associate Aboriginals with headdresses, but they are misled by thinking the most common headdress is the feathered warbonnet. The feathered warbonnet is only adorned by men who have done a courageous deed or act of bravery. For each act they receive an eagle feather that is given to commemorate their deeds. There are different styles of headdresses, like the halo shaped headdress, the trailer warbonnet which is shaped as the halo headdress but extends from each end, trailing the ground. Also that warbonnet that extends straight-up. These types of warbonnets were typically not worn in battle. These types of headdresses is worn mostly by experienced warriors or chiefs, it depends on the tribe because the meaning may change.


The roach headdress is the most commonly worn headdress among Aboriginals. These headdresses were made out of stiff animal hair, moose hair, deer’s tail hair or mostly porcupine guard hair. These hairs are attached or sewn into a leather base in the shape of a mohawk. The hairs stood straight up on the base, men wore these with many different hair styles. Often the hairs of the headdress were dyed bright colours, shells, beadwork and feathers were also added. These headdresses were worn by warriors in battle or dancers. Again meaning may change from tribe to tribe.


Headbands are leather straps that are placed around the head, across the forehead. The leather was decorated with bead work, dyes, shells, quills and sometimes feathers of the backside of the headband. Headbands are worn by both men and women for daily wear. These headdresses were not associated with war or battles. The feathers used are turkey, hawk, or crane feathers, the eagle feathers are reserved for the warriors though.  


This type of headdress is especially rare, and only a few tribes used them. A buffalo headdress is traditional regalia. It is similar to a helmet of buffalo hide with buffalo horns atop. Sometimes paired with either buffalo fur or a trail of eagle feathers. These were reserved for distinguished male warriors mostly from the Great Northern Plains.


Some tribes have women that wear leather headbands across their foreheads extending above their heads in a half moon shape. They are beautifully beaded, sometimes with a feather attached in the back and are used at formal events.

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