Native American Indians used feathers for a variety of important purposes including ornamentation and artwork as well as ceremonious and religious uses. However, the type of feather used was at times significant to its purpose and Indian feathers were frequently required to be of a certain species for certain uses.
Some of the more commonly used Indian feathers came from crows, hawks, and eagles. In fact, the eagle was the most significant source of Indian feathers and was considered symbolic for many reasons. Everything regarding harvesting Indian feathers from an eagle was ceremonious from killing or trapping the bird to the use of specific feathers from specific species. Eagle feathers adorned the headdresses of many tribes’ warriors as a symbol of their accomplishments in battle. So valued were the Indian feathers of an eagle, that the tail of one eagle would have equaled a pony in trade amongst some tribes.
Many Indian feathers, including those from eagles, were symbolic of certain virtues. At other times, Indian feathers that were to be used in ornamentation on clothing or headgear were painted to reflect a certain individual or an event. The number and kind of Indian feathers worn by an individual could tell a great deal about the person. The headdress of an Indian chief contained more Indian feathers than anyone else’s did in the entire tribe.
Even today on Indian reservations across the United States, Indian feathers adorn headgear, clothing, and accessories worn to ceremonies and social gatherings. They no longer carry the same meaning, but Indian feathers do represent a part of the American Indian heritage and history. Many items that are still made and sold on Indian reservations are adorned with feathers, though not those belonging to an eagle. However, the modern day hand-painted Indian feathers make a remarkably intricate and detailed addition to many of the items they sell. If you are interested in purchasing hand-painted Indian feathers, try to buy them from a reservation if possible.
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