The Legend of the Warbonnet
The warbonnet evolved over a period of years. It has been adopted by a large number of tribes across the country and is probably the most universal of Indian regalia. Indian lore refers to the headdresses of eagle feathers stuck in headbands by tribes along the upper Misouri River in the late 1700’s. The flare-type bonnet was originally developed and used by the tribes of the northeastern and central plains who placed great emphasis on ‘counting coup’. A coup was an act of bravery in battle such a touching an enemy without killing him, capturing an enemy horse or weapon, taking a scalp or killing an enemy. Each of these feats gave the warrior the right to wear an eagle feather. The bravest most successful men counted enough coups to enable them to assemble a warbonnet as a method of displaying coup feathers. By the 1850’s, the flare-bonnet had gained popularity with other tribes. Eventually, even the Blackfoot replaced the sacred, straight-up bonnet with the classic flared style. Today, the warbonnet is used by almost all tribes and has become, perhaps, the most widely known of all Indian costuming.