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Reply with quote  #1 
I stand corrected Wyatt,i was sure that i did this one a while back but couldn,t find it.

The beautiful widespreading, feathered war bonnets were developed by the Plains Indians. In the old days the bonnet was only worn on special occasions and it was highly symbolic. Its beauty was of secondary importance for its real value was in its power to protect the wearer.

The bonnet had to be earned through brave deeds in battle for the very feathers it contained were significant of the deeds themselves. Some warriors might be able to obtain only two or three honor feathers in their whole lifetime, so difficult were they to earn. The bonnet was also the mark of highest respect because it could never be worn without the consent of the leaders of the tribe. A high honor, for example, was received by the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy fallen in battle, for this meant the warrior was at the very front of fighting. Feathers were notched and decorated to designate an event. Feathers told individual stories such as killing, scalping, capturing an enemy's weapon and shield and whether the deed had been done on horseback or foot.

The eagle was considered by the Indian as the greatest and most powerful of all birds and the finest bonnets were made out of its feathers.

When about ten honors had been won the warrior then went out to secure the eagle feathers with which to make his bonnet. In some tribes these had to be purchased from an individual given special permission to hunt the bird and a tail of twelve perfect feathers could bring the seller as much as a good horse. Some tribes permitted a warrior to hunt his own eagles. This was a dangerous and time-consuming mission and meant that he had to leave the tribe and travel to the high country where the bird could be found. When the destination had been reached, ceremonies were conducted to appeal to the spirits of the birds to be killed

The history and construction of a war bonnet held a lot of oral history for the warriors and their tribe. Someone holding a completed boonnet could tell countless stories. This exercise borrows from this old tradition and guides the writer in their quest to document either their own, or the stories of others.
from The Book of American Indians by Ralph H. Raphael.



The Plains Indian War Bonnet was a receptacle of oral history for warriors and their tribe. Around the fire stories could be told of great acts of bravery. Feathers told individual stories of courage and daring.

THE BATTLE AT BEECHER'S ISLAND, 1868,

       
Leading these Indians that were attacking Major George Alexander Forsyth was the powerful Cheyenne Roman Nose who was wearing a magnificent war bonnet. He had received this power of protection from a medicine man who had seen a magical war bonnet in a vision, then constructed it for Roman Nose. It contained, among other items of nature, the skin of a kingfisher whose magic caused a bullet wound to close instantly. It also was adorned with a bat, which extended to Roman Nose protection during night battles, but it came with taboos.

Roman Nose must not shake anyone’s hand, nor eat food taken from a dish with a metal utensil. These taboos seemed simple enough and Roman Nose honored them. By the fall of 1868 he was still “living” proof that the magical bonnet worked. For there he stood, this 230-pounds of bronze glory, very much alive and ready to fight — that is, until he unwittingly ate food that had been taken from a pot with a metal fork.

This breaking of the taboo, imposed by the magical war bonnet, happened just before this historic battle at Beecher’s Island, against 48 scouts under the command of Major George Forsyth and Lieutenant Frederick Beecher. It was a battle that, at first, Roman Nose could only sit on his pony and watch because he had broken a taboo. Should he enter the battle, he would die.

the above is a story of how magical a war bonnet was supposed to be.Contrary to belief a war bonnet was only ceremonial,for thos who wished to truly re-enact or portray authentic Native American indians war shirts and war bonnets were seldom waorn except for ceremonies and special occasions,instead it would have just been the eagle feathers tied in the hair,leggings and moccasins.
Alice

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Registered: 20/11/03
Posts: 5,904
Reply with quote  #2 

Quote:
for thos who wished to truly re-enact or portray authentic Native American indians war shirts and war bonnets were seldom waorn except for ceremonies and special occasions,instead it would have just been the eagle feathers tied in the hair,leggings and moccasins.

 

It seems to me that many people who portray Indians think a war bonnet is essential. Let's hope a few of them read this!!

PatGarret

Registered: 11/08/04
Posts: 833
Reply with quote  #3 

Some good reading there Alice and Crow. If a person was interested in joining a native American group here in the UK what groups specialize in all things native?

 

 

Pat.G



Reply with quote  #4 

true what you said though Alice,its authentic to dress that way unless dance wear,a war bonnet was only worn for medicine,ceremonial,and by a war chief but not all the time,the great leader Sitting Bull only wore it to lead up to the Greasy Grass battle,then rode away to a distance,he didn,t take part.

 

nearly all braves and warriors wore a breech,moccasins and sometimes leggings,a single or double eagle,bound or tied into the hair.



Reply with quote  #5 

great info JC, and i have some evidence of sitting bull with and with out his war bonnet

 

 



Reply with quote  #6 
spot on Brad,see the single braided feather
Lorena

Registered: 16/10/05
Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #7 

Hi there,

I just take issue here a little with the statement that war bonnet's were mainly worn for ceremonial purposes. History relates many instances where Plains people were noticed wearing all sorts of accessories, including long flowing bonnets, sometimes during hunting too, as this sometimes overlapped with being part of a war party. The Cheyenne and Lakota were particularly noted for their bonnets as is so often related in first hand accounts, and from the Indians themselves in their drawings.

Also, it was not always war chiefs that wore these bonnets, some were borrowed or could be given by relatives [e.g Jack Red Cloud at the Rosebud fight], others may have been stolen from enemy tribes, which helped cause fashions to change between Indian groups. The Lakota flaring bonnet style actually came from Crow Indian influence originally.

Also, regarding the acquisition of these feathers, the Lakota in particular favoured juvenile Eagle feathers, which sometimes meant capturing the young bird from it's nest and then holding it captive in the village, tied up, and over time siphoning off the new feathers as they were produced. When sufficient had been collected, the bird was set free - hopefully well fed !

I think a modern concept with feature films today showing plains indians at war, is that they are depicted with so little acoutrements that it makes them look poor, and I think it equally an insult to them to be honest. Mind you fake bonnets are quite expensive to buy, so could be a cost cutting measure there by the production team.

I have this intriguing photo, taken by an army photographer circa 1868 at Fort Hays in Western Kansas, showing the capture off the plains near Smoky Hill river, of 3 Cheyenne [Stinking Bear, White Wolf and Crazy Bear]. They have just arrived at the fort and the leader is in full head dress with the feathers almost reaching down to the ground. His 2 followers are also feathered and painted and armed to the hilt. It's an amazing photo I think and, rarely, shows them just as they were 'in the wild' so to speak at that time. They look quite hostile. I expect they were later killed and their belongings taken. Fort Hays had quite a large indian prison.

Lorena



Reply with quote  #8 
hi Lorena i think we may both have our wires crossed i know they were worn other than ceremony,but it wasn,t widespread,i think Alice mentioned that from a authentic portrayal point of view its MORE likely and known that moccasins,leggins a breech-cloth were worn,the hair greased and braided and a eagle feather or two bound into the hair.The American indians you mentioned anyway were well known personalities and were expected to wear the full regalia at official ceremonies,especially on treaties with the government,good information and feedback you provided though

JC
Lorena

Registered: 16/10/05
Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #9 

Well I still disagree there that it wasn't widespread.  Also not sure about the 'well known personalities', I can't recall mentioning any.

 

I should quantify that by saying I mean widespread amongst the Plains peoples, obviously not Eastern or southern tribes like the Apache for instance.

 

 



Reply with quote  #10 
i still disagree slightly too,and no you didn,t mention any personalities,i did, the war bonnet may have been owned but it still wasn,t widely worn for battle,neither was a ornately decorated war-shirt,it was a prized item,when very ornate quillwork was done on war-shirts it had a tendency to split and crack,because it took so long to do it was put away for ceremony,course it was easier when beadwork came along.Maybe we should agree to disagree.


Reply with quote  #11 
why it wouldn,t have been worn willy-nilly is because every single feather had to be earned,every single feather was a act of bravery, A war bonnet was a head piece worn by certain Indians. The feathers on it represented acts of bravery The bonnet had to be earned through brave deeds in battle for the very feathers it contained were significant of the deeds themselves. SOME WARRIORS MIGHT BE ABLE TO OBTAIN ONLY TWO OR THREE HONOUR FEATHERS IN THEIR WHOLE LIFETIME, so difficult were they to earn. The bonnet was also the mark of highest respect because it could never be worn without the consent of the leaders of the tribe. A high honor, for example, was received by the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy fallen in battle, for this meant the warrior was at the very front of fighting. Feathers were notched and decorated to designate an event. Feathers told individual stories such as killing, scalping, capturing an enemy's weapon and shield and whether the deed had been done on horseback or foot.


Reply with quote  #12 
THE SYMBOLISM OF THE EAGLE FEATHER

In the beginning, the Great Spirit above gave to the animals and birds wisdom and knowledge and the power to talk to men. He sent these creatures to tell man that he showed himself through them. They would teach a chosen man sacred songs and dance, as well as, much ritual and lore.

The creature most loved by the Great Spirit was the eagle, for he tells the story of life. The Eagle, as you know, has only two eggs, and all living things in the world are divided into two. Here is man and woman, male and female and this is true with animals, birds, trees, flowers and so on. All things have children of two kinds so that life may continue. Man has two eyes, two hands, two feet and he has a body and soul, substance and shadow.

Through his eyes, he sees pleasant and unpleasant scenes, through his nostrils he smells good and bad odors, with his ears he hears joyful news and words that make him sad. His mind is divided between good and evil. His right hand he may often use for evil, such as war or striking a person n anger. But his left hand, which is near his heart, is always full of kindness. His right foot may lead him in the wrong path, but his left foot always leads him the right way, and so it goes; he has daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death.

In order to remember this lesson of life, look to the great eagle, the favorite bird of the Great Spirit. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, part light, and part dark. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death. So that you may remember what I have told you, look well on the eagle, for his feathers, too, tell the story of life.

Look at the feathers I wear upon my hand, the one on the right is large and perfect and is decorated; this represents man. The one on my left is small and plain; this represents woman. The eagle feather is divided into two parts, dark and white. This represents daylight and darkness, summer and winter. For the white tells of summer, when all is bright and the dark represents the dark days of winter.

My children, remember what I tell you. For it is YOU who will choose the path in life you will follow -- the good way, or the wrong way.

The American Indian did not have books to read to their children. It was through the telling of stories to the children that they learned the beautiful legends and history of their particular Indian tribe. Sometimes, they inscribed or drew pictures on a buffalo hide or on the sandy rocks to tell of an incident or leave a message, but mostly, they relied on memory to carry on their traditions, ritual, lore, and sometimes, favorite stories were told over and over again, sometimes gaining or losing the material in the story, but the basic formula always remained the same.

Bald Eagle (Wanblee)

The bald eagle is a symbol of leadership, and to the Native American it is the creature symbol of greatest power because it flies so high, close to the Great Spirit, and is regarded as the eyes of the all-seeing powers of Wakan Tanka, the one above who created all things.

The Indian wore the feathers of the eagle, but this great bird is so highly regarded that each eagle feather had to be earned by the wearer. Deeds of bravery, generosity, self-sacrifice, or provident wisdom could result in the wearing of an eagle feather.

An eagle has such good vision and great caution that seldom could a hunter get close enough to bring it down with a bow and arrow. It was regarded so highly that it was believed bad luck would befall any hunter who would shoot such a magnificent bird.

Eagle is regarded as the connection to Wakan Tanka. Its feathers are regarded as having brushed the face of God and are used as powerful healing tools. Eagle feathers are also believed to help an individual to gather courage and to maintain courage for a fearless drive to perform a good task or worthwhile deed under difficult conditions.
Lorena

Registered: 16/10/05
Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #13 

Sure Johnny, I agree with all that.

 

I sometimes think western historians interpret things too literally, applying quite strict rules to a culture, when in fact there is often much leeway and flexibility, as with all things in life, but particularly Native American I feel, which is noted for it's individualism.

We can only generalise really. 

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