Clothes/Costume — The Western Indian

Good Morning, afternoon or evening & Happy Tuesday!

Did you know that most American Indians (before the advent of European civilization pushed in upon them) could tell from a footprint, a piece of clothing, the style of bow and arrow or other facets, what tribe the article came from?  How many of us could tell by simply looking at a person, where that person was from and what he or she did for a living?  We share so many common traits today (one state to the other), that it might be hard to tell, let alone pick up an article and tell at a glance where it was from and what tribe.  Anyhow, I thought that it might be fun to have a look at a few of the Western tribes and how they were not only similar, but how they were different.  Oh, I’ll be giving away a free book today, also.

I thought we’d have a look at the different hair styles:

This young fellow here to the left is Crow.  Notice the hair straight up on top, the loop necklace, the braids starting high and going straight down.  The hair going up like this was called pompadour style.  Here are some other images of the Crow:

Notice the looping necklace, the braids starting high mostly and the pompadour style of hair.  The Crow men were known to be very proud of their very, very long hair and their hair frequently touched the ground as they walked.  The women, due to cutting their hair when a relative died, women often had to augment their hair by adding to it in order to get the length.

Then there were the Sioux or the Lakota, Dakota or Nakota (depending on the dialect).  Now the picture to the right is a favorite of mine — it’s Adam Beach, who is not Sioux.  However, his style of hair and dress could be Sioux.  What we generally think of as Western Indian is often the image of the Teton Sioux.  The men wore their hair in many different styles, but often left it loose.  Two braids with a center part was common.  Here are some images of the Sioux:  Notice that the braids start a little lower down on the face and note the part in the middle.


The Sioux men also made a habit of wearing a bone choker and what I’ve always referred to as a breast plate made of bone.  Notice that the young man nearest wears this bone breast plate.  Also note that the image on the far right is that of Sitting Bull.

Handsome, handsome people the Sioux, and they still are.  Notice this young man on the left wearing traditional hair-style with a superman T-shirt. 

And then there were the Cheyenne.  The young man to the left (nearest) is Cheyenne.  Because the Cheyenne were allied to the Sioux, often their style of dress and hair-style often mimicked the Sioux.  The Cheyenne were fearsome warriors.  Interestingly, they once were farmers, but moved West, or were pushed West and once settled there, they became some of the most famous warriors in all of American history.  Here are some other images of the Cheyenne:

Notice that the images of these men look to me to be as if they might be Sioux as well as Cheyenne.

And then there were the Blackfeet.  The Blackfeet men sometimes wore their hair in the style of the pompadour, but one would never have confused them with their traditional enemies, the Crow.  Like other tribes, the men wore braids (and the women, too), but the men wore their hair in three braids (one in the back).  Shell earrings (white but often pink) were traditional styles for both men and women.  And often the Blackfeet wore the choker and the looping necklace as well.

The picture to my far right is Blackfeet, also.  Notice, too, the manner in which the Blackfeet wore their war bonnets…straight up — a little different than the Sioux.

Well, I do believe that this is all the time that I have for this subject today.  The photo to the left isn’t as large as I would have liked, but I’m wondering if you can guess which tribe is represented?  

Can you guess?  All of the following books of mine were all written about this tribe:  Gray Hawk’s Lady, White Eagle’s Touch, Night Thunder’s Bride, Wolf Shadow’s Promise, Soaring Eagle’s Embrace, The Princess and the Wolf.  I’ll be giving away one of these books to a lucky blogger today — and it doesn’t matter is you get the tribe right or not.  🙂  So come on in and make a stab at this — I’ll announce the tribe when I announce the winner of the book.

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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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33 thoughts on “Clothes/Costume — The Western Indian”

  1. I’m afraid I have no idea – but I love your titles, especially ‘The Princess and the Wolf’!

  2. I am going to take a wild guess and say Lakota, but that’s just a wild guess. Very interesting post.

  3. Very interesting post, Karen! I’ve always found the history and culture of the Western Tribes fascinating.

    My guess for the picture is Cheyenne.

  4. Hi Karen! You got me thinking about hairstyles today’s culture. I recently watched a youtube video where the stylist was giving a teenage girl bright red highlights and a very unusual cut. It expressed her personality and uniqueness. The tribal hairstyles you showed provide unity as well as identity. Interesting . . .

    I’m not going to guess on which tribe that last picture is from, but I think I know. Does it start with “B”?

  5. Great pictures! It’s always been amazing to me how majestic these warriors look with their long hair and feathers. Coming from our culture you would think it would take away from their masculinity, but far from it. They are warriors to the bone, and every inch shows it to be true.

    Must be the same phenomena with those Highland warriors and their kilts. They might be wearing something that in our culture resembles a woman’s skirt, but there is nothing feminine about it. And the fact that it is a matter of tradition and pride with them only makes them stand taller and exude more power.

    Great post!

  6. Hi Kay,
    Cheyenne would be my guess, too. The mid-west tribes were so much more colorful than the ones in my valley. I guess the desert tribes took the colors from their surroundings. Brown-brown and more brown.
    Many years ago, (in the 1950’s and 60’s), my husband could tell what tribe a person was from by the shape of their face and their manner. Now, there is so much cross-tribal marriages, that there are no pure tribes any more. The Navajo and some Apache tribes are pretty much isolated that they marry within their boundaries. But, with the kids going off-reservation to go to school and meeting others, the pure-ness is getting diluted. Many kids now are half or if they marry another tribe they could be several tribes mixed. And that makes their identity harder. I always said that if my grandchildren marry Indian, they marry UP.
    Great post. I totally appreciate your posts.

  7. The books you listed are all about the Blackfoot
    tribe. I have a couple of them, haven’t read them yet, but I’ve decided to bump them up to the top
    of the list. Thanks for a most interesting post!

    Pat Cochran

  8. Hi PageTurner!

    Do you write books that are pageturners or are you a fast reader? Your name made me wonder. Thanks so much for your comment today. 🙂

  9. Hi Vicki!

    That’s so interesting about seeing something on YouTube about hairstyles. I’ve been studying them also lately — actually about 4 years ago I got a bad haircut and since have been struggling with it — each time I go to the hairdresser the same mistake keeps being made — and so I’ve now decided to just let it grow and start again from scratch. 🙂

  10. Hi Karen!

    What a great observation. I’ve often noticed the same thing. They wore earrings and jewelry and had long hair, but my goodness, there was nothing feminine about them. I hadn’t thought about the skirts because I don’t write that culture — but you are so right. 🙂

  11. Hi Colleen!

    Thanks so much for your guess. You know, the Cheyenne are such a beautiful people and out of all the tribes that were suppressed by the incoming culture, I’ve often thought the Cheyenne were the most suppressed — I think because they were so strong and so beautiful not only in person but in philosophy. 🙂

  12. Hi Mary J.!

    Boy, you are so right. The Crow had a distinguishing feature when the European first met the tribe and that was an extremely low forehead — didn’t influence their cunning or intelligence — just an interesting feature. But you’re right about the intermarriage.

    But then, it makes for interesting features, doesn’t it — and in order for the race to blossom and bloom, there must be new genes coming in constantly. Intermarriage between clans was STRICTLY forbidden, something that nowadays is no more on most of the reservations — except those more isolated by the Apache and Navajo. Thanks for your comments.

  13. I think it is one of the Sioux tribes. I’m amazed at all the info you have on something like the hairstyles…you do your research, girl.

  14. I enjoyed reading about the different hair styles of the American Indians. I have always liked how the Sioux and Cheyenne wore their hair. Thanks for sharing this with us today.
    I say it is a picture of a Blackfeet chief.

  15. Hi Melinda!

    Thanks so much for your guess. You know that I know that you know your stuff. (Lots of know there). Melinda, how are you doing?

  16. I’m late but I’m glad I didn’t miss your post. It’s all so very interesting. Of all the pics, Adam is still my favorite!! I’ll take a guess and say Blackfoot. They are all so noble looking. And I’ve always liked men in long hair lol.

  17. Hi Catslady!

    I’m late getting the winners up — it’s been a busy evening — but I’m about to do a drawing now and get the post up. 🙂 Thanks so much for your guess. 🙂

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