Fur Turban Of Southern Plains

Fur Turban Of Southern Plains

Posted By Jonathan Holmes February 21st, 2016 Blog

There are many old photographs of certain Omaha-Ponca Hethuska or Osage Inlonshka members wearing a turban of otter fur, or a turban of red fox fur.

Dr. James Howard states,

“The otterskin hat, rather than the war bonnet, was the ‘chief’s’ headdress, while a similar headdress of fox fur marked the experienced warrior.”
(Howard, 1965, p. 66)

While in “The Omaha Tribe,” Fletcher and LaFlesche states,

“The peculiar headgear shown in plates 36 and 49 (otter fur turbans), was worn only by chiefs; it bore the name watha’ge, which was applied to all caps which fit the head.”
(Fletcher & LaFlesche, 1911, p. 354)

The red fox fur turban was usually narrow and plain, giving the appearance of a large headband and were sometimes worn in combination to the hair roach. Sometimes these small turbans were also made from otter fur as well, depending on the tribe.

In contrast, the highly decorated otter fur turbans however,

“…was a wide band of otter fur which encircled the head like a crown. The top was left open, and if a warrior wished he could place an eagle feather in his scalplock and let it stick up through the cap. The tail of the otter was attached to the rear of the cap in such a way as to hang down the warrior’s back. Sometimes the edges of the cap and tail were beaded, and a tuft of dyed horsehair was appended to the end of the tail. Four round beaded targets were also attached to the wide band of the cap for decoration.”“While some of the southern tribes wore a slight variation of the cap just described, the hat most unique to the southeast had a huge hide triangle, with beaded or painted (or ribbon appliqué) symbols on it, which extended out to the left or right side of the wide headband.”…“Such hats were worn by the Pawnee, Ponca, Osage and Oto warriors.”
(Mails, 1972, pp. 385-387)

As already stated, the otter fur turbans were worn only by the Ponca chiefs or sub-chiefs and,

“…a chief wore a downy eagle plume erect in a socket at the back of his otterskin hat.”
(Howard, 1965, p. 66)

Today, fur turbans are seldom seen among the Ponca Hethuska or the Osage Inlonshka members, though they seem to becoming more popular at pow-wows.

According to an article written by Norman Feder titled “Otter Fur Turbans,” and published in a 1960 issue of American Indian Tradition, other tribes besides the Ponca and Osage had otter fur turbans including the Sauk & Fox, Iowa, Otoe, Missouri, Kaw, Pawnee, Omaha, Comanche, Kiowa, Menomini, Potowatomi and Quapaw. (Feder, 1960, p. 4)

In addition, I have seen otter fur turbans used among some Southern Cheyenne, and Oklahoma Delaware as well.

Lastly, in reference to otter fur turbans, Alanson Skinner states,

“…the most valued variety is a fillet of dark otter fur. Not only does it present a handsome appearance, but the connection of the otter with the sacred rites and origin myth of the Medicine Dance society and it’s own supposed supernatural powers…”
(Skinner, 1921, p. 109)

It should be noted, that many tribes still follow traditions which are said to have certain guidelines associated with who is given the right to wear an otter fur turban, and what titles and obligations wearing one implies.

Some examples from the past:

 

Fur Turban Of Southern Plains

Kiowa
Fur Turban Of Southern Plains

Ho Chunk

Man Chief – Pawnee – 1858

The Chief Whom They Look Upon – Pawnee – no date

Eagle Chief – Pawnee – 1905

Post Oak Jim (on right), and his brother – Comanche – 1895

Sitting In The Saddle – Kiowa – 1867

Sitting In The Saddle – Kiowa – no date

Lone Chief, Standing Buffalo Bull, Iron Whip, Walks With Effort I – Ponca – 1858

Black Crow – Ponca – 1877

Standing Bear – Ponca – 1881

True Eagle – Otoe – 1868

Medicine Horse – Otoe – 1869

Standing Eating – Otoe – 1884

Far Away – Otoe – 1884

Makes A Noise – Otoe – 1884

White Horse – Otoe – 1895

James Arkeketah – Otoe – no date

John Pipestem, Albert Green – Otoe – 1906

Red Bear – Otoe – 1908

Black Hawk – Iowa – 1869

Nag-A-Rash – Iowa – 1869

Buffalo Chief – Iowa – 1869

Pa-de-gi-he – Omaha – no date

The Chief – Omaha – no date

The Chief – Omaha – 1869

White Swan – Omaha – 1883

Yellow Smoke – Omaha – 1883

Standing Bear, (wife and daughter on left), Yellow Smoke, (wife and daughter on right) – Omaha – 1883

Omaha man – 1902

Omaha man – 1902

Omaha men – 1907

Standing Bear – Omaha – 1909

Bear In The Fork Of A Tree – Sauk & Fox – 1858

 

Sauk & Fox men – 1866

 

Po-Ga-Ha-Ma-We – Sauk & Fox – 1888

Po-Ga-Ha-Ma-We – Sauk & Fox – 1888

Cannot Do It – Sauk & Fox – 1890

Cannot Do It – Sauk & Fox – 1890

Nish-ke-kot with son and daughter – Sauk & Fox – 1895

Hard Thinker – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Wam-Pash-Ka – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Picking Up Something – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Po-Ga-Ha-Ma-We – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Po-Ga-Ha-Ma-We – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Po-Ga-Ha-Ma-We – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Fish Rub Against Something – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Fish Rub Against Something – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Fish Rub Against Something – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Fish Rub Against Something – Sauk & Fox – 1896

Na-wat-ena, Po-ga-ha-ma-we, and Pi-pi-qua – Sauk & Fox – 1896

 

Old Eye – Sauk & Fox – no date

Pa-thin-non-pa-zhi – Osage – 1868

Non-pe-wa-the – Osage – 1868

Osage men – 1868

Reaches The Sky – Osage – 1877

Henry Red Eagle and son – Osage – 1893

Osage men – no date

Osage men – no date

Osage men – no date

Playful Chief – Osage – 1900

Bacon Rind – Osage – 1900

Man Of Courage, Black Dog – Osage – 1904

Bone Heart – Osage – 1906

Red Eagle – Osage – 1908

Comes Upon The Village – Osage – 1908

Playful Sun Carrier – Osage – 1908

Generous – Osage – 1911

Bacon Rind – Osage – 1916

Feder, Norman.
1960. [U]Otter Fur Turbans[/U]. American Indian Tradition Newsletter, Vol. 7.

Fletcher, Alice C. and Francis LaFlesche.
1911. [U]The Omaha Tribe[/U]. Bureau of American Ethnology, 27th Annual Report 1905-06, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Howard, Dr. James H.
1965. [U]The Ponca Tribe[/U]. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 195, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Mails, Thomas E.
1972. [U]The Mystic Warriors of the Plains[/U]. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.

Meadows, William.
1999. [U]Kiowa, Apache and Comanche Military Societies[/U]. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

Murie, James R.
1914. [U]Pawnee Indian Societies[/U]. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, No. 7, New York, NY.

Skinner, Alanson B.
1915-a. [U]Societies of the Iowa, Kansa and Ponca Indians[/U]. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, Part 9, New York, NY.
1915-b. [U]Kansa Organizations[/U]. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, New York, NY.
1915-c. [U]Ponca Societies and Dances[/U]. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, New York, NY.
1921. [U]Material Culture of the Menomini[/U]. Indian Notes and Monographs, No. 20, Museum of American Indian, Heye Foundation, NY.


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About Jonathan Holmes

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