Plains Indians’ Hair

During his many years as a soldier in the Western United States of the mid 1800s, Richard Irving Dodge learned much about the Plains Indians. In his book, “Our Wild Indians” he described men’s hairstyles and taking of scalps.

Ute man, Ta-Wits-Na, 1890, wears braids wrapped in beaver fur

Ute man, Ta-Wits-Na, 1890, wears braids wrapped in beaver fur

          According to Dodge, the Cheyenne and Arapaho men parted their hair in the middle and wore two long tails of hair on each side of their heads.
          Kiowa men parted their hair in the middle. On the left side a long tail of hair dangled. They cut the hair on the right side just below the ear and wore it loose.
          The Comanche combed their hair back from the forehead and wove it into one long braid.
          The Sioux, Crow and Winnebago men parted their hair in the middle and tied it in one unbraided tail on each side of the head. A two inch circle of hair just over the crown of the head was separated out and braided.
          Indians took scalps from other Indians killed or seriously wounded in battle. They believed taking the scalp of dead enemy killed his soul. The scalp was also proof of valor, of success in battle.
          Among the Plains Indians, a scalp taken in single combat became the personal property of that warrior. But scalps were shared when taken in a battle involving a number of warriors. Some of these scalps were given to the chief, even if he did not participate in the battle. Some were hung in the Medicine Lodge, touched only by the Medicine Chief. Others were danced over by the war party and afterward returned to the warriors who took them.

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 515-517.
Photo: Courtesy Library of Congress

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