Why Do Native Americans Wear Head Dresses?

Most people see the Native American head dress and know that it is part of the Native American culture and tradition. However, since Native Americans have been counted as a cultural minority in the North Americas specially in the US, people a times do not understand the significance of the head dress. They wear it as part of costumes when it is Halloween or similar events without knowing that doing so is offensive to Native Americans.

The War Bonnet

The Native American head dress also known as the war bonnet is normally donned by the chiefs and the high ranking members of a Native American Tribe. The number of feathers, the color and how it is arranged is deemed by the rank of a person. It is not only a symbol of war but also a symbol of wisdom, selflessness and power.

The term war bonnet was coined by the white colonizers who came into the shores of the land they named America. Head dresses come in different styles and reasons. Most head dresses are worn for ceremonies and are seen as part of spiritual rights.

1. Meeting of the elders – when the elders convene, the chief would done his head dress. The other members of the council will also wear their head pieces. The pieces are made of sacred feathers, beads, horns and other adornments.

They signify rank and wisdom among the tribe

2. Medicine man/woman - A medicine mane is a person of great spiritual prowess and wisdom. He cures those who are sick and is there allowed to wear the headdress.

3. Times of war – During the times of war, when the men would march to battle, they would done head pieces. The chief wil have the most feathers, while his warriors will have one or two on their leather headbands.

4. Weddings - When people get married, they wear their head pieces as a sign of prowess and wealth. The headdress is also a sign of honor and thus is given a place in such ceremonies.

5. Coming of age – When boys come of age, they are given an animal totem. They are normally given a necklace that has their spirit animal as a pendant. They are also given headbands with one or two feathers.

The Adorments

The Native Americans believe in animism. They strongly feel the connection between Earth and man. And thus they believe that each creature, each plant, rock, river, land, bird or animal have spirits. These Spirits guide man to living life. The Native American Braves feel that they need to connect with the spirits through symbolism and through ceremony. With this in mind, they use elements from the Earth to represent Nature’s guiding force.

1. Eagles’ Feathers - Eagles feathers are a prominent feather of the head piece. This is because the eagle is the strongest birds. Many Natives Believe in reincarnation and connection to the spirit animals. The eagle is one of those animals that they revere.

Eagles’ feathers adorn a chief’s headpiece because he is the highest member of the tribe. He has the highest level and thus this allows him to “watch over” his tribe. Many of the war bonnets show s a full head of feather connected to the head pieace in an erect manner.

2. Buffalo Horns - The buffalo is the strongest animal of land. But not only is it strong, it is also gentle and wise. A herd of buffalo is an important symbol the the Natives becaus these animals, when together are unstoppable.

3. Bear’s Fur – The bear is another animal revered by the different tribes. The bear is brave and cunning. He is also big but fast. When he roars other animals hide. The bear also symbolizes healing and goodness.

4. Different Beads – Beads are used not only for decorative purposes but also for spiritual reasons. They can ward off enemies and can be used as talismans. They can be used to protect the wearer from fatal wounds, be able to run fast or be used to harness strength.

Respect for the Head Dress

In the recent years, kids and even adults wear the Native American costume together with the headdress without any regard for the culture and traditions of the different tribes. They do not see it offensive. But many Natives feel offended about this. The head dress is a sacred piece of adornment only reserved to those who deserve it.

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Video interview about the White Buffalo Legend

I wanted to share this really great video I found about the Sacred White Buffalo Legend.  It has some excellent details that I didn’t know and lots of other good information from Bill Means about the white buffalo calf woman.  Highly recommend that you check it out!


I also enjoyed this video that tells the legend of the buffalo to native american music by Richard BlackHawk.  Love the flutes playing!




Finally this video is by Chief Arvol Looking Horse and he talks about the legend of the White Buffalo in terms of our relationship with nature and what it means to us today.  Really love this video as it shows us how the legends can be used to teach everyone about the ways in which we need to change our mindsets if we want a happy future.



Do you know any other good videos related to the White Buffalo that you would like to recommend? If so please contact me or comment below.


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About the beliefs and culture of Native Americans

Native American people inhabited the Americas long before they were discovered by Christopher Columbus. They were given the name of Indians by Columbus, because he wrongly assumed that he had arrived in the Indies. Much of Native American history is tragic and deals how the Europeans fought to conquer and slay the Native Americans that were willing to peacefully coexist. Native American beliefs and culture have remained intact throughout history and have survived on.

What is Culture?

Trying to define Native American culture can be a daunting task. Culture is what can characterize a group and involves the popular beliefs, customs and rituals. This culture is passed on and is carried out by all different Native American tribes throughout history.

Stone Age Culture of Native Americans

Even though many Native American tribes lived vastly different lifestyles, many still held on to the same customs and beliefs. No matter if they were nomadic or static, they still felt that the land was filled with bountiful gifts that they were blessed with. The culture of Native Americans never changed from the time of the stone age until the Europeans began to migrate to this region. Their tools and weapons had remained primitive over time and they lived a simplistic lifestyle that they enjoyed.

Religious Beliefs

Many of the religious beliefs that Native Americans held strongly were tied to Animism. Animism is a belief that the Universe and everything that makes up the universe has its own soul or spirit. This means that every plant, tree and stone has its own soul. Other things like storms and fires are also believed to have souls by the Native American people.

These type of beliefs allowed for a profound connection and affection for nature. Animals, sun and wind were often worshipped by the Native Americans and they even believed that dances could bring about rain. They prayed to the gods and nature for all that they needed to survive. Spirituality was a prominent part of Native American culture. They felt as though they were one with nature and owed it a great deal of gratitude.

The Great Spirit

Instead of praying to God, they referred to the creator as the Great Spirit. This spirit was said to have created the entire world and was responsible for all that nature had to offer. This resulted in the Native American people praying and worshipping the Great spirit and looking for favor. For more information on spirit and spirituality please visit here. http://www.signalriver.com

Shaman and Medicinal Practices

Another custom that is well-known in Native American culture involves the belief in healing powers. Shaman were critical to each tribe and were believed to have special healing powers that were given from the spirit world. Shaman were seen as mediums that had connections to the spirit world and could heal humans. Magic and medicine were used to heal the sick and cure disease. However, shaman were also believed to have other powers that involved telling the future and controlling the hunt.

Customs and Ceremonies

The Native American people used their customs to show their respect for the spirits. They created dances and orchestrated ceremonies that were designed to appease the spirits and be a sign of respect. All tribes had their own ceremonies, but they were all similar and included the same basic customs. Spirits were important to the Native Americans and they always tried preserve their people by respecting the spirits that had control. The ceremonies often included elaborate dances that were accompanied by song. Some of the most popular Native American dances included the Pipe Dance, Rain Dance, Buffalo Dance and Basket Dance. The dances that were performed were often ideal for each individual tribe.

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