Native American Earrings

By Jonathan Holmes on March 22, 2012
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In early times both men and women of the Omaha/Ponca had their ears pierced for the first time at a very early age, usually about 3 or 4 years old, when they could walk on their own. Ear piercing was considered a “rite of passage” and the family of the child would gift the person doing the piercing in a very generous manner. Both male and female would then wear earrings the rest of their lives. (Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage, 1986)

Consequently, during the Hethuska dance ceremony it was only natural for men to wear earrings.

For other tribes, such as the Pawnee, the amount of ball and cone silver earrings worn, at one time had to do with war honors. (JoJo Lane, Pawnee, 1988)

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The most common early style of earring wwere:

1. A silver wire loop.

2. A silver wire loop with a number of variations of items either threaded through the silver wire loop, or dangling from the silver wire loop, such as:

a) a silver bead or beads
b) a trade bead or beads
c) a silver bead and dangling silver cone
d) a piece of shell
e) a length of silver chain hanging from the loop
f) a length of silver chain hanging from the loop with stamped silver dangle
g) a bone hairpipe or hairpipes

3. Hook earring with a number of silver dangle variations.

Today, stamped trade-silver or German silver pieces linked together in a variety of shapes and patterns, or silver ball & cone earrings, are the norm for most men’s earrings used by straight dancers.

Some examples from the past:

The Watchful Fox – Sauk & Fox – 1847

Sauk & Fox man – 1858

Woman’s Heart – Kiowa – 1867

Sitting In The Saddle – Kiowa – 1867

Kicking Bird – Kiowa – 1868

One Who Strikes The Chiefs First – Pawnee – 1868

White Horse – Pawnee – 1868

Gives To The Poor – Pawnee – 1868

Long Dog – Pawnee – 1868

Wah-Com-Mo – Sauk & Fox – 1868

Medicine Horse – Otoe – 1869

Knife – Iowa – 1869

Kicking Bird – Kiowa – 1870

White Horse – Kiowa – 1870

Bird Chief – Arapaho – 1871

Chewing Elk – Comanche – 1872

Lone Wolf – Kiowa – 1872

Black Dog – Osage – 1876

Black Crow – Ponca – 1877

Standing Bear – Ponca – 1881

Standing Bear – Ponca – 1881

White Swan – Omaha – 1883

Yellow Smoke – Omaha – 1883

Bright Eye – Omaha – 1883

Cannot Do It – Sauk & Fox – 1890

Shining River – Sauk & Fox – 1890

Comanche man – 1892

Ne-kah-ka-lah – Osage – 1893

Tall Chief – Osage – 1894

Prairie Turtle – Otoe – 1894

Bushy Tail – Otoe – 1894

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Frank Corndropper, Paul Buffalo, and Pierce St. John – Osage – 1895

Willie Gray Eyes – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Eagle Chief – Pawnee – 1900

Bacon Rind – Osage – 1900

Ma-Chet-Seh – Osage – no date

Man Of Courage – Osage – 1904

Black Dog – Osage – 1904

Little Soldier – Ponca – 1906

Bacon Rind – Osage – 1906

Red Eagle – Osage – 1908

Wolf In The Middle – Southern Cheyenne – 1908

Little Village Maker – Omaha – 1909

Standing Bear – Omaha – 1909

Standing Elk – Ponca – no date

Generous – Osage – 1913

Walking Dog – Osage – 1923

Bailey, Garrick, and Daniel Swan.
2004. Art of the Osage. St. Louis Art Museum, University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

Callahan, Alice A.
1990. The Osage Ceremonial Dance, I’n-Lon-Schka. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Feder, Norman.
1957-a. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 1.
1957-b. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 2.
1961. Plains Indian Metalworking, Part Two. American Indian Tradition Newsletter, Volume 8.

Hail, Barbara N.
1980. Hau, Kola!: The Plains Indian Collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology. Brown University, Bristol, RI.

Howard, Dr. James H.
1965. The Ponca Tribe. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 195, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
1976. Ceremonial Dress of the Delaware Man. Special Issue, The Bulletin of the Archeological Society of New Jersey, No. 33, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.

LaFave, Edward J.
1998. Straight Dance Clothing: How to Dress a Straight Dancer. Whispering Wind: American Indian Past & Present Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 4, Folsom, LA.

Smith, Jerry.
1982. Straight Dance Clothes: Getting Them On. Moccasin Tracks Magazine, April Issue, LaPalma, CA.

Stewart, Tyronne H.
1968. Dressing a Straight Dancer. The Singing Wire Newsletter, February Issue.


TOPICS: Blog, Featured, Native American Culture, Native American History, Pow Wow

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4 Responses to “Native American Earrings”

  1. dusty conner says:

    I’m in awe of such beautiful people! so much pride and spirit in their faces but no tears for what white man has done to them. I want to walk among these angels.

  2. Patricia Figley says:

    There pictures are beautiful I love them

  3. Vivian says:

    Wow….I see a lot of facial features that r among our people of the six nations I loved looking at these photos…n even though we will never truly know their pain…we of the six nations…at least I am eternally greatfull that these native warriors fought for our freedom naw yah my u all rise with the eagles

  4. Alplily says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful photos. Very beautiful.

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