Make Yourself an Indian Headdress (*please don’t, actually, but here are the plans)

In the ladies' guide to the apocalypse by summerburkes8 Comments

We love feathers. We were raised on one side of the family by non-practicing Choctaw people, and on the other side by Druids reincarnated as white-mutt, cotton-picking small-game hunters.

Dad was adopted so we’ll never know our lineage. They told him he was all white, but that may have been just to protect him from the grief they got. He looked white, with blue eyes, and lived a white-privileged life, after he escaped the hell and abuse and poverty of his upbringing.

They lived in little houses and big trailers, not on reservations. We didn’t ever discuss pow-wows or anything like that, even though this little tyke asked relentless questions. Those who still knew the ways … they forgot on purpose, and told the kids to forget it, too. It was easier that way in Mississippi.

Choctaws did not and do not wear war bonnets. Hardly anyone did / does in the Native nations, except for male Plains tribal leaders, and then, only sometimes.

Unless you’re “Indian” (so named because Columbus got lost), wearing a war bonnet is completely disrespectful, cartoonish, and insensitive to the fact that Native American culture isn’t a monolithic Hollywood relic. We do NOT recommend or endorse it. Nobody except that Village People guy can get away with it. Maybe not even him.

Gorgeous drawing, though.

make an indian headdress - old scout drawing

… We merely saved the illustration so we could learn how to finish up turkey feathers found on the roadside, for one-or-two-feather hair decorations and crafts of other non-racist types. Blueprints for single feather activities, nothing more.

Turkey feathers. Not eagle feathers! Don’t f-ing touch those.

Cartoon Lalo Alcaraz Honoring Native Americans

UPDATE 2014: The above cartoon has actually happened in real life.

Pictured at left is Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache tribe member, AIM member, Executive Director of the American Indian Education Center in Parma, Ohio, and more. At right is Cleveland Indians baseball fan Pedro Rodriguez, who is not a Native American.

Pictured at left is Robert Roche, a Chiricahua Apache tribe member, AIM member, Executive Director of the American Indian Education Center in Parma, Ohio, and more. At right is Cleveland Indians baseball fan Pedro Rodriguez, who is not a Native American.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Chief Wahoo is under fire for being the Sambo of native Americans, as far as mascots go, & the Wahoo pictured actually learned things & worked some stuff out (read the fascinating story).

Meanwhile, the Redskins controversy has finally exploded, and this is the most popular post on the Ladies’ Guide to the Apocalypse, so there’s hope for acculturation to sensitivity.

Cheer up. There are plenty of other feathery ways to add native or nouveau-feral touches to your party wardrobe without the same played-out, festival-chick, bad-joke, sacreligious headdress. Aho.

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  1. hola
    gifts don’t come from the government
    sometimes gifts come to you
    honor them
    don’t seek them
    treat them with respect
    i use a short length of leather
    rather than the quill cut and bent
    tied in it’s all the same

  2. Always nice to see your beat poetry, Lungta!

    A couple other knowledgeable-sounding readers commented further on the proper ceremony for Eagle Feather and other topics… but the comments accidentally went to Spam and were deleted in haste. Kicking myself! So if you’re re-visiting to see where your comment went, apologies and please re-post.

  3. what’s wrong with thinking the head dress is a beautiful and impressively, intricately crafted adornment? what’s wrong with admiring this kind of work and wanting to wear one myself? why can’t I make a head dress simply because I want to wear one and while it’s on my head, still hold a deep respect for all native americans and an understanding of the failure of that group term to reflect the variation among the hundreds of unique societies that once ingeniously thrived for centuries on this continent before being massacred by numbers which are higher than those of the holocaust, while having a disdain for that kind of imperialism and abuse of power, while knowing that although some societies remain, the world has lost a tragic amount of wisdom and culture, and while knowing about the kinds of lives those who wish to live in these societies to this day are relegated to. while knowing that they once required about 10,000 acres to roam and hunt and live and that reservations rarely satisfy these needs, and knowing sociologically what kinds of problems are seen on reservations and how that is still connected to the betrayal of english government. so why can’t I understand that native american cultures are and were what they are and were, and why can’t i understand that they were/are in many ways more developed and stable than our own, and why can’t i have respect for them, and still wear a head dress because i think theyre beautiful and i want to put one on my head and feel like maybe I belong to a culture who values a connection to the earth, and feel festive or beautiful myself? who the hell said wearing a head dress is offensive.

    1. Author

      i know, i know. they’re beautiful. but to answer your question: The people who invented headdresses say it’s offensive, so … this is a free world and all can do just what they please, but the impression I’m left with is that “cute girl wearing a ceremonial headdress” is the new “frat boy in afro and gold chain.”

      Maybe you can make a headdress that’s an *homage* — something which looks different enough that you won’t be accused of basically wearing an aboriginal Pope hat?

  4. Hi, I’m really glad I read this article. I’ve been collecting feathers from near where I live for a while, the local children also give me them as gifts. I plan to create a headdress with the feathers that come to me inspired by our connection to nature and the fact that I feel that even though I live in a western city . . . its to coincide with other art and music related to the changes that are happening on the planet and the fact that we must learn from first nations and remember the way. Before I read this article I would have probably created the headdress in a similar way to the ceremonial ones, but now I understand more I will use the feathers to create my own different piece for my own ceremonies, not trying to imitate Indians but still creating something using materials that are around me and reveal themselves to me.
    Thanks again

  5. For a World Religions school project I’m going to make an aboriginal headdress, so I’m lucky to have found this, it definitely gives me an idea of what I have to do.

    1. Author

      just don’t wear it to a party later. :D
      Here’s the Society for Primitive Technology’s mission statement. Note that a polite “thing” in the world of respectfully studying indigenous cultures is to put a “maker’s mark” somewhere on your aboriginally-crafted item, to clearly delineate it’s a reproduction. maybe you could share the concepts with your class?

  6. I love the headress! Glad i found this artical. I was planing to buy one , i didnt know it was effencive to wear it though. How can i make it non offensive?? If its not eagle feathers will it still be offensive??

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