- Formerly a sure way of telling an Indian's tribe was by his headdress.
Each tribe had a distinct type of headgear, which varied from the famous
eagle feather war bonnet of the Dakota Sioux to the turban of the Iroquois.
The headdress of the Woodland Indians had
no tail, and turkey, crane, and heron feathers were used, as well as those
of the eagle.
The most picturesque headdress was that
of the Dakota Sioux, which probably originated among the early Chippewa.
Each feather in the Dakota headdress had a meaning and was known to the
white man as an "exploit feather." For instance a feather with a
red spot on the top was for killing an enemy. If the feather was
cut off at the top it meant the enemy's throat had been cut. Notches
in various parts of the feather showed whether the warrior had been second,
third, or fourth in counting coup on an enemy, while cut edges of the feather
meant he had been fifth. A split feather showed he had been wounded
in battle - his "Purple Heart."
Among the Hidatsa, or the Gros Ventre of
the Missouri, the first man to touch and kill an enemy wore a feather with
a horsehair tuft; the second to strike the enemy wore a feather with
one red bar; the third to strike, two red bars; and the fourth to strike,
three red bars. Wounded men wore feathers with a band of quill work.
The Omaha wore a roach made of a deer's
tail and turkey neck hair, dyed red, to designate one who had won first
honors. The Sauk and Fox also had a deer tail roach headdress.
The Cheyenne wore a buffalo horn bonnet during certain ceremonies.
The Blackfoot and other northern Indians
wore a fur cap in winter, made from the pelt of the coyote, otter or badger.
Such a cap also was worn by the Omaha, Osage, and Ponca, and was decorated
with quill work.
The eastern Indians, chiefly the Iroquois,
wore headdresses of animal skins, turbans of buckskin, and feathered headbands.
One feathered cap called gustoweh, or "real hat," had overlapping
circles of smaller feathers on top, with one eagle feather in the center.