Warbonnets (or war bonnets) are more commonly known as the intricate Native American feathered headdresses that have appeared throughout pop culture.
These warbonnets were composed of golden eagle tailfeathers and often decorated with beading and ermine skins. These important ceremonial regalia were only worn by male chieftains and warriors who have earned each feather through an act of bravery or completing a valuable deed for one’s own tribe. Warbonnets constituted your rank on the battlefield and in your own community, meaning the individual adorned with such a bonnet should be shown the highest form of respect.
There were various types of headdresses that were crafted in Native American history and were worn only by a dozen or so Indian tribes. Some well-known tribes included the Sioux, Blackfeet, and the Plains Cree in the Great Plains region. A trailer warbonnet features either a single or double row of feathers that when completed, falls in a long tail-like structure towards the ground. Another type of headdress was the Halo warbonnet, which is crafted out of eagle feathers and stitched together to frame the face.
For the Plains Indian tribes, the warbonnet represented a man’s bravery and honor, and dawning such a headdress proved that you have served your tribe greatly and have stories to share. Later in the 1800s, other tribes decided to follow suit, adopting the sacred headdress. However, to them, it was more of a fashion piece and did not hold the same significance. Feathers are still awarded to this day to brave and courageous Native American men that have served in the military or have accomplished great deeds.
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