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War Bonnets: A Symbol of Honour and Respect for the Native Americans

American Indians | June 20, 2017

The war bonnets of American Indians were not just a colorful display of culture and traditions; it was also a symbol of great respect given to a certain individual by his tribe or spiritual tribal leaders. These headdresses were originally worn into tribal skirmishes and large battles, however, with time their significance has been reduced as a ceremonial remembrance, of what once was equivalent to a crown in the Indian culture.

The war bonnet represents the feathers of a bald eagle, a bird which has become synonymous to Indian warriors and patriotism to the geography.

The feathers on the headdress were not simply bought or gathered; each of these feathers had to be earned by selfless acts of community service or by exhibiting exemplary gallantry in the face of battle.

In some cases, tribal chieftains or spiritual elders would award these feathers to someone in the community as a result of their services towards the overall wellbeing of their people, which may include political or diplomatic achievements such as crucial agreements or peace deals.

A soldier fighting in the frontlines all through his life could only end up with two or in rare cases three feathers as gratitude to his courage and galore. The warriors would then incorporate these earned feathers into a headdress, which they would then wear with great pride. Traditionally though most elaborate headdresses were only exclusively reserved for a chosen few individuals; chosen by the spiritual or political leaders of the tribes upon whom the entire community would reach a consensus.

Eagle feathers represent the highest form of honor and respect in the traditions of Plains Indians; these feathers make the most part of the war bonnets worn by almost all the major figures in the Indian culture. Other Plains-style bonnet types are flaring eagle feather bonnet, hornet bonnet, and fluttering feather bonnet.

One of the most Influential warriors of Cheyenne who fought gallantly in the Indian wars of the 1860s was Roman Nose, who was famous for wearing an elaborately decorated and illustrious war bonnet that supposedly protected him during battles. The legends said that on several occasions Roman Nose wore his bonnet to battle and rode back and forth in front of the United States Army soldiers, escaping unscathed despite being fired upon by several men.

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