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South Dakota, Lakota Sioux
Eagle feather bonnet, about 1925, tanned deer hide, eagle feathers, glass beads, horsehair, ermine, wool cloth.
Museum purchase. Conservation funded by The Alliance of The Speed Art Museum, 1999 1937.68.1

The eagle-feather bonnet was a magnificent headdress worn by Plains warriors and leaders in battle. The Lakota considered the eagle the greatest and most powerful of all birds and believed that the feathers held protective powers that could prevent men from being hit by arrows.

The bonnet had to be earned through acts of bravery in war because the feathers represented the deeds themselves. The feathers were so difficult to earn that a warrior might obtain only two or three in a lifetime. Each feather was notched and decorated to tell the story of how it was earned. To wear the bonnet was considered a mark of the highest respect because it could only be worn with the permission of the tribe’s leaders.

After tribes were settled on reservations men who distinguished themselves continued to wear the bonnet to represent their achievements and to remind people of their histories.




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