The Native American headdress and war bonnet were very popular among early tribes. These ornately decorated items were not just worn to cover the head. Many were considered a symbol of status or power. Often feathers had to be “earned” and were a positive symbol of recognition or achievement.
Unlike many other types of clothing and tools, women usually were not involved in the production of the headdress. This task was left for the men of the tribe since women typically did not wear a headdress, although they were permitted to wear other types of headdresses or head coverings. It was considered a great honor by the men to be awarded or given a Native American headdress. Simply being a member of the tribe did not grant you the right to wear a headdress; the privilege had to be earned.
Warriors would design the cap part of the Native American headdress in which feathers were later added. Each time a man performed an honorable or outstanding deed, he was usually given a feather to add to his headdress. When enough feathers were accumulated, they were inserted into the headdress for wear. Often the older men of the tribe had the most feathers in their headdress.
Generally the color of the feathers used did not have any significant meaning. The types of bird feathers most accessible to the tribe were used. While some areas may have had numerous bird species, other were limited to just a handful. The only exception to this rule was the golden feather which was viewed as the highest honor obtainable. Golden feathers were obtained from eagles which the Indians believed were closely connected to the gods.
Today many collectors of Indian artwork and clothing are interested in obtaining a Native American headdress. Depending on the dealer and location, an authentically made headdress can cost over two-thousand dollars.