Leadership, Accomplishment and Cultural Celebration

The Plains Headdress

Signal of Leadership

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The Assiniboine headdress, circa 1920, was crafted from felt and wool. Large strips of ermine hang from both sides.

The principal component of Plains and Plateau headdresses is the eagle feather. As “the one which flies highest,” the eagle is considered a main mediator for humans with the blue sky of the Great Mystery.

A man gained an eagle feather for a feat of valor or great generosity. A many-feathered headdress indicated an individual of superlative leadership.

The headdresses depicted on these stamps contain eagle and hawk feathers, beads, strips of animal fur, and horsehair. Under U.S. law today, the eagle feather is exclusively used by American Indian people, and only for cultural and religious purposes.

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The Cheyenne headdress, circa 1890, features brass-tack decorations across the brow, as well as golden eagle feathers, ribbons, and hair tassels.
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This Comanche headdress, mid 1800s, consists of golden eagle and dyed turkey feathers, with rabbit skin and fur along the sides.
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This Flathead headdress, circa 1905, is made from felt and large golden eagle tail feathers, with ermine skin spots and white cow tail hair tied to the end of each feather.
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This Shoshone headdress, circa 1900, is made from golden eagle tail feathers and the brow band is embroidered with porcupine quills.

Five spectacular American Indian headdresses are featured in a booklet of commemorative stamps, the first in the American Folk Art series to be printed in booklets, and the first to feature more than four designs. The stamps were designed by Lunda Hoyle Gill of Riverside, California. They were issued in Cody, Wyoming, August 17, 1990.

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Mumsookawa, a Comanche Chief born in 1836, lived to be 102. Photograph by Mark Harrington, 1908.
N02772 Courtesy, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.