When you think of an Indian, you usually imagine them wearing their hair in braids. This hair style was often the traditional style among Native Americans. What most people don’t know is that certain tribes had their own traditions when it came to hair.
In the Quapaw Tribe, women who were married wore their hair down loose while single women wore their hair in braids. Often they would roll these braids in coils and fasten them behind each ear. These coiled braids would then be decorated to attract a mate.
In the Blackfoot Nation Tribe men were the ones in braids. Mean wore three braids often with a topknot or pompadour. Women wore their hair loose or occasionally wore two thicker braids down the front. Plains Indian men wore the traditional two long braids often seen in movies. Meanwhile the women of the Plains Indian tribe cut their hair shorter than the men’s hair.
Kiowa Indians wore their hair braided. Men wearing two long braids often wrapped in fur, while the women wore either two braids or let their hair loose. The Indian men cut a piece of their hair short just over their right ear as a tradition in the Kiowa tribe.
Delaware and Lenapes tribal women wore their hair in very long braids, often believed to never have had a haircut. While men wore their hair in a mohawk or shaved their heads while leaving just a lock of hair at their forehead.
Wisconsin Indian women wore only a single braid down the middle of their back and wound with ribbons. Older traditional Wisconsin Indian women would braid their hair and double it back, forming a club. This would be tied with deerskin or beaded cloth. A very long piece of beadwork was often attached to the braid and hung close to the ground.
As you can see, almost every Indian tribe learned the art of braiding. Many tribes used this technique in other areas as well. From basket weaving to clothing, braiding was a very useful tool.
From Lara: My birthgrandmother Mary, who was a midwife and Indian, descended from Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware, rolled and wrapped her hair into a bun for many years – and her hair was as long as she was tall. She never cut it. I wish I had met her.
When I was in first grade, I told my adoptive mom to section and braid my dark brown hair into two braids worn in the front – I couldn’t do it myself but that is how I chose to wear it. I think I was 13 almost 14 – the summer between fourth and fifth grades – that Edie decided to have all my hair cut off (I got some popular haircut called a PIXIE). My hair had been down to my waist. I cried and was horrified. I never let her do that to me again.