A feather that was cut in a certain way, notched, split or dyed red conveyed the history and exploits of the wearer that was immediately recognised by other Native Indians. Warriors were awarded feathers as the tribe's acknowledgment of acts of bravery and war honors.
Native American Clothing - Meaning of Headdress Feathers
The history of traditional or ceremonial dress and regalia worn by Native American Indians is a fascinating subject. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Headdress Feathers. A feather set upright on the crown of the head indicated the capture of an enemy, one for every capture. A feather that inclined 30º - 40º indicated a Scalper and the wearer had taken one or more scalps. Feathers set low in the head indicated Leaders in battle. The headdress feathers worn by Native American Indians all had specific meanings. A feather could have a piece of horsehair attached, a feather could be painted red or have a red spot, a feather could be split into two, cut at the top or have a serrated edge. Each type of feather had a different meaning and would convey the history and deeds of the wearer.
Meaning of Headdress Feathers Fact Sheet
- Headdress Feathers Fact 1: A feather with a tuft of horsehair attached indicated the warrior's first coup. One of the greatest honors bestowed upon a warrior was called a 'coup'. This achievement meant that the brave had got close enough to his enemy to touch him and then return to safety
- Headdress Feathers Fact 2: A feather that had been painted red indicated that the wearer had been wounded in battle
- Headdress Feathers Fact 3: A feather with a notch cut into it meant that the warrior had taken the scalp of his enemy
- Headdress Feathers Fact 4: A feather with a red spot had killed an enemy
- Headdress Feathers Fact 5: A feather with a diagonal cut at the top indicated that the wearer had cut the throat of his enemy
- Headdress Feathers Fact 6: A feather with a serrated edge indicated that the warrior had 'counted coup' four times
- Headdress Feathers Fact 7: A feather with the upper section partially removed indicated that the warrior had 'counted coup' five times
- Headdress Feathers Fact 8: A split feather indicated that the warrior had been wounded on several occasions
- Feather Meanings Fact 9: The meaning of the different feathers and their cuts varied from tribe to tribe
- Headdress Feathers Fact 10: Feathers from different types of birds also represented different meanings. A Crow feather represented skill and cunning, an eagle feather indicated great courage, a falcon feather represented speed and a hawk's feather represented strength
- Headdress Feather Meanings Fact 11: The golden eagle and the bald eagle were considered the most sacred of birds
- Feather Meanings Fact 12: Every time a Native Indian earned a feather, he would either wear it or he would display it on a pole for use in ceremonies and rituals.
- Headdress Feather Meanings Fact 13: When a warrior had collected enough feathers, they were then made into a Feather headdress
- Headdress Feathers Fact 14: The chief of a tribe wore a headdress consisted of many feathers, each one represented a good deed and his contribution to the welfare of the tribe
- Headdress Feather Meanings Fact 15: Native American Indians would take the greatest care of any feathers that came their way as they saw it as a sacred gift from the Great Spirit and as a powerful talisman in battle
For additional facts refer to the articles on Feather Headdresses, War Bonnets and Roach Headdresses.