The Symbolism Behind Native American Feathers

The Symbolism Behind Native American Feathers

One of the most common objects utilized in crafting Native American artifacts is the feather. We see them all the time—on headdresses, on housing, or on possessions that were present in a traditional Native American context. However, the feather is regarded as more than just an accessory in Native American culture.

The feathered headdresses or warbonnets feature, perhaps, the most popular feathers we see in Native American culture.

These feathers are usually given as a result of a victorious battle, but their placement and look can vary by detail. A feather painted red indicated that the person wearing it was injured in battle at some point. If the end had a horse hair attached, that meant that the subject achieved his first ‘coup,’ or a situation where they got close to the enemy and lived to tell the tale.

Eagle with Native American Chief DrawingAnother important factor to consider is the bird whose feathers they belong to.

Birds played a big role in Native American culture and ideology. Each bird offered a different trait or power, and a feather allowed those strengths to be bestowed upon the wearer. For example, eagles—both bald, and golden—were sacred beings, so wearing their feathers meant that you carried their higher strength with you.

Over time, Native Americans would build crowns or headdresses that displayed a variety of feathers from their experiences—almost like badges we see in military regalia today. Chieftains and officials were often seen with the most elaborate designs. In this way, feathers equated to status, and respect.

At Kachina House, we love to hear and find these stories about the importance of the past in the present. That’s why we offer an incredibly diverse selection of authentic items from Native American artists to our clients. For more information, contact us today!

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