Feathers, or plumage, play a significant role in the culture and life of Native Americans. You can observe the use of feathers in just about every aspect of Indian life. The feathers of various birds can be seen on headwear, clothing, shoes, instruments, weapons, cooking utensils and vessels, and much more. There are many different birds’ feathers that were worn by Native Americans, but perhaps the most sacred was that of the eagle.
The Indians believed that the eagle was a messenger of God, and that to wear its feather meant you were most sacred. They also believed that the eagle’s feather represented an equal balance between male and female. To be seen adorned with the feather of an eagle meant that you had earned respect and love from the fellow members of the tribe, and that you were worthy to wear such an adornment. Feathers are also commonly used to adorn dream catchers. This is because feathers are considered to be symbols of prayer, honor, and sources of ideas which can be best expressed through dreaming.
Since birds can fly and humans cannot, the Native Americans believe that they have special powers and can communicate with God. Adding feathers to a dream catcher allows the person sleeping to further his or her dreams. Most feathers that are worn by Native Americans are brightly adorned with beads and rocks to give them a more colorful and festive look.
Feathers often are used to make the headdresses worn by chiefs of the tribe, and the more feathers that are included, the more strength and respect the chief is showing. Many children are often seen wearing feathers tied in the hair as well. The beautiful feathers of birds make up a large part of the culture in the Native American community, and serve as a strong symbol of prayer, belief, and respect.
Joseph Paige © 2006