American Indian Headdress Facts

Native American Indian Headdress Basic Facts

  • Almost every tribe in North America wore some sort of headdress.
  • Native American Indians wore head gear for many different reasons ranging from intimidating enemies during battle, ceremonial, or simply as protection from the cold weather, sun, or rain.
  • The most common type of headdress worn by Native American’s in North America has historically been the roach headdresses. See below for more information about this type of headdress.
  • The famous full feathered war bonnets were not a common headdress worn by most tribes. See below for more information about war bonnets.
  • The styles of headdress worn by particular tribes were determined by several factors including materials that were available, and the beliefs and customs of the tribe.

Native American Indian War Bonnets Facts

  • The full feathered war bonnets, made famous by Hollywood movies, were historically worn by many of the Great Plains tribes including the Cheyenne and Sioux. In the late 19th century Native Americans from other regions began wearing them to attract tourist who generally expected American Indians to wear this type of headdress.
  • Only Native American men, chiefs and warriors, wore war bonnets (a type of headdress) even though women were sometimes warriors and even chiefs.
  • War bonnets were seldom worn in battle; they could be uncomfortable during battle and were generally just worn during ceremonies.
  • War Bonnets always had feathers and were often intricately decorated with beads and animal skins.
  • The more feathers on the headdress the braver the Indian wearing it was supposed to be; each feather was given for an act of bravery.
  • The feathers of Golden Eagles were used frequently to make war bonnets.

Types of War Bonnets

There were traditionally several different types of war bonnets worn by Native Americans including the ones listed below.

  • Trailer war bonnet – these war bonnets consisted of one or two rows of eagle feathers extending far down the warriors back.
  • Halo war bonnets – these headdresses had feathers circling the face.
  • Straight-up feather war bonnets – had feathers sticking straight up and were tall and narrow.

Native American Indian Roach Headdress Facts

  • The Roach headdress, also called porcupine roaches is traditionally the most common headdress worn by American Indians in North America.
  • This type of headdress was worn by numerous tribes including the Mohawk, Pawnee, Huron, Sauk, Fox, Osage, and Pequot.
  • Materials used to make a roach headdress included porcupine hair, turkey beard hair, deer-tail hair, and moose hair.
  • Feathers, often dyed red, were attached to the headdress that stood straight up forming a crest.
  • The name of this type of headdress comes from the early European settlers to North America who thought the stiff spikey head piece looked like a horse’s main after being clipped using a technique called “roaching”.