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Native American Indian Heritage: The Indian Headdress

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Native American Indian Heritage is celebrated during the month of November to embrace Native American Indian culture and traditions. President George. H. W. Bush, declared the first commemoration on August 3, 1990.

One of the most recognizable symbols of Native American Indian culture is the traditional Indian headdress, also known as a feathered war bonnet. Although it is easily recognizable, it is important to note that not all Native American tribes created or wore headdresses.

In many tribes, when members wear the headdress it is believed to bring the warrior both wisdom and powers. In some tribes the headdress is also known to be worn by males, which symbolizes a place of great respect within their tribe.

Traditionally, the Indian headdress is composed of a headband made from leather that was draped with tribal specific beading patterns, buffalo fur, and horns. The different design patterns in the headband also distinguish the identity of the tribe from which the individual is associated.

The headdress also consists of long feathers from an eagle and other birds to represent a courageous act displayed by a warrior, in most cases. The National Fish & Wildlife Service authorized use of eagle feathers for their religious use.

Similar to today’s military rank system, each long feather represents a specific act of bravery earned through hard work, dedication, and strength. Given the distinguished meaning behind each feather, it is important to understand wearing a headdress for any other purpose, to include costumes, may be perceived as offensive and even considered to be a form of stolen valor.

During this year’s Native American Indian Heritage Month, every Airman is encouraged to take time to learn something new about the Native American Indian culture and share with wingmen their insights and experiences in what they learned.

For more information about the Native American Indian headdress and other prestigious traditions associated with this ethnic group, please visit the Defense Equal Employment Management Institute website at:

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written on behalf of the 21st Space Wing Equal Opportunity Office for Native American Indian Heritage Month. For any questions or concerns, contact the EO office at 719-556-7693 or

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