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The most common type of cap in use on the northern Plains was a wide band of otter fur which encircled the head like a crown. The top was left open, and if a warrior wished he could place an eagle feather in his scalp lock and let it stick up through the cap. The tail of the otter was attached to the rear of the cap in such a way as to hang down the warrior's back. Sometimes the edges of the cap and tail were beaded, and a tuft of dyed horsehair was appended to the end of the tail. Four round, beaded targets were also attached to the wide band of the cap for decoration.

    Fur cap, northern Plains style favored by Sioux, Blackfoot, and Cree.
Thomas E. Mails, Mystic Warriors of the Plains

While some of the southern tribes wore a slight variation of the cap just described, the hat most unique to the southeast had a huge hide triangle, with beaded or painted symbols on it, which extended out to the left or right side of the wide headband. These were really stunning creations, and the bold symbols, which depicted many of the warrior's accomplishments, were arranged in excellent compositions. Such hats were worn by the Pawnee, Ponca, Osage, and Oto warriors.

    Fur cap, southern Plains style favored by Poncas, Omahas, Otos, Pawnees. Note huge, painted-hide triangle extension.
Thomas E. Mails, Mystic Warriors of the Plains

The roach headdress was, for the most part, an ornament worn by dancers, but the Omaha warriors wore a roach made of a deer's tail and turkey neck hair, dyed red, to designate one who had won first-coup honors. The warriors of other tribes made their roaches with stiff moose hairs, porcupine hairs, and the white hairs from a deer's tail, and when finished they stood erect, like a trimmed horse's mane, on the top and back of the warrior's head. Some were dyed in splendid colors such as orange and purple, and the Sioux dance roach was usually white and yellow with black tips.

Thomas E. Mails, Mystic Warriors of the Plains


To make a roach, the Indian warrior gathered the strands of hair, which were about twelve inches long, into bunches about one eighth of an inch in diameter. He folded each bunch in half and tied it just above the bend, leaving a small loop at the base. Then he sewed the bunches onto the edge of a foundation, side by side in three or four rows. The foundation was made either of skin or braided cloth, and was long and oval-shaped at the front, and rather pointed at the rear end.

In the center of the foundation, the Indian placed a piece of thin carved bone or rawhide called a spreader, which kept the roach from drooping inward. He attached bone sockets to the spreader and inserted in each socket one or more feathers, which twirled in the slightest breeze.

He then made an opening or slit near the front of the foundation through which he pulled a lock of his hair. He tied the hair in a knot to hold the front of the roach in place. At the back, or pointed end, he fastened long buckskin thongs and tied them around his neck.

Some of the Indians wore a type of beaded headband when their heads were shaved to hold the roach securely on during dances. The roach was tied to the part of the band which crossed the head.

    Beaded head band of type often used by dancers after 1870 to help hold roach on. Barry photos show Sioux wearing version of the band in the 1870's and 1880's. Bands also seen in Shoshone photos taken around 1890, 1900, and 1915. However, support bands like this only became broadly popular after 1900.
Thomas E. Mails, Mystic Warriors of the Plains
    Back view of roach.
Thomas E. Mails, Mystic Warriors of the Plains

NEXT - Animal's Skin Headdresses

PAGES IN THIS ARTICLE Introduction~Four Types ] Horned Headdresses ] Pictures of Horned Headdresses ] Golden Eagle Feather Headresses ] Pictures of Golden Eagle Feather Headdresses ] [ Hat~Cap~Roach ] Animal's Skin Headresses ] Headdress Storage ] Conclusion~Footnotes ]

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