Perhaps each of us, when mentioning the Indians, an association arises in the form of a swarthy man on a horse with a tomahawk or bow in his hands and feathers on his head. Moreover, most often in the latter case, we are talking about a large crown with a huge number of feathers, most often eagles. However, in reality, not every Indian had the right to wear such a headdress, and he could look differently. And to put on this crown required a special occasion.
The feather crown is a special headdress for Native Americans. Historians believe that representatives of the Sioux tribe are the pioneers in the emergence of this now irreplaceable attribute of the image of the Indian.
The crown was assembled as follows: they took a leather or fabric ribbon, then feathers were attached to it with the help of leather threads or sinews. When the headdress was ready, its appearance could be diluted with various decorations: embroidery, beads, horns, genuine leather ribbons or braids.
In fact, eagle feathers or other feathers were not the only headgear materials for the native inhabitants of the American continent.
Moreover, quite often the choice of raw materials was individual for each tribe, or it was similar for those who lived nearby. It also depended on the territorial location of its authors. However, almost always the headgear had a clearly defined meaning, the circle of those who can wear it, as well as the occasions for which they were worn.
So, for example, there was an unusual headdress called roach. He was something like a mohawk, which consisted of porcupine bristles or elk hair. Roach was the traditional headdress of tribes who lived east of the Rocky Mountains, such as the Ponca or Omaha.
Often, only young men who were preparing for the initiation ceremony and were one step away from the title of a warrior or had already managed to somehow prove themselves had the right to wear such hats. At the same time, among different tribes, the rules for obtaining and wearing such headdresses for various merits often varied.
Another rather popular type of headdress among a number of tribes of the Plains Indians was horned buffalo wool hats. They were also not available to the first comer. Most often, only male warriors who had already undergone baptism of fire and distinguished themselves during the war had the right to wear such hats.
There was one more function - sacred or ceremonial, that is, and the cases when horned headdresses made of buffalo wool were worn were also clearly defined.
For the manufacture of special headdresses, Indian tribes also used otter or beaver wool. They resemble turbans in appearance and, like the aforementioned types, had a well-defined functionality.
So, they were part of the male ceremonial attire, that is, they had restrictions on wearing. Such headdresses were common among some tribes living in the southern plains, for example, Potawatomi, Pawnee and Osage.
In fact, there are quite a few other types of headwear that were used by almost all tribes. They had their own design features and a set of decorations. However, all these options are united by one common characteristic: only those who deserved this right and received a certain status could wear them, as well as only a few could become their owners.
Headdresses had a special meaning for the Indians, because only the most powerful and respected representatives of the tribe could own them, and in the overwhelming majority of cases they were men. In fairness, it should be clarified that women also had the right to wear hats or jewelry, but only those that are headbands made of beads or crowns with several feathers.
It is interesting that an Indian man does not immediately receive a large and fully stocked feather crown, but collects it gradually: for each feat or other special deed, he receives a feather. And the very first thing, while still a young man, he must earn as proof that he has ceased to be a child and has grown into a real man.
An indicator of such initiation can be a perfect feat: an act of courage and honor, for example, while hunting. Also, the first feather can be obtained as a gift, for a job well done or for serving for the good of your people.
However, the feathers themselves, or rather, which bird they belonged to, also played an important role. Eagles were most appreciated - they were considered one of the highest signs of respect.
In addition, such a feather, according to the beliefs of the native American population, has mystical, even magical properties, the power of nature and the spirits of the forest. In fact, they were considered not only indicators of valor and exceptional qualities, but also powerful talismans for their owner.
To get an eagle feather in the crown, it was necessary to perform a military feat, or reach certain heights in political or diplomatic activity. Also, it was brought as a gift, if during the battle the Indian first touched the enemy or left the fight unharmed - then the feather was given the largest in size.
Another case when it was given to a resident of a tribe refers to actions aimed at saving the lives of their compatriots or their survival.
Interestingly, even with enough feathers, there was no guarantee that a large crown would be made from them, or that it would be worn.
Permission to create such a special headdress had to be obtained from the leader of the tribe - it is he who makes the final decision whether the applicant is worthy of possessing such a regalia, and gives his blessing. Therefore, it is not uncommon for Indians to have just one or more feathers in their hair.
A headdress made of feathers for the Native American of North America is, first of all, a symbol of strength and courage. At the same time, the crown itself was not the most practical in everyday life.
Both of these factors - sacred and pragmatic - were the reason that in most cases the headdress was used as a traditional element of clothing for important ceremonies, weddings, or other holidays.
It was there that one could see the most massive headdresses, because they played the role of exclusively ceremonial adornments. And during the battle, smaller crowns or several separate feathers were used as a talisman. It was believed that the spirits and forces of nature would protect the valiant warrior from the Native American population from death and enemy attacks.