The Traditions of Long Hair: Part 2
As you may remember, Part 1 of this article was about the symbolism of and teachings about why, as Indigenous People, we keep our hair long, as well as when and why we cut our hair, what is done with the hair once it is cut, as well as a short teaching about what is taught to us when we are young in regards to our hair. As I mentioned in the first article, their are so many teachings about our hair, that it was simply impossible for me to fit everything I wanted to share into one article. Now that I’ve shared the significance of our long hair, I think it’s important to also share the different hairstyles, when and why they are worn certain ways and few different traditions and teachings surrounding the hair of Indigenous Peoples.
Hair represents the pure thoughts and spiritual status of an individual, showing the bonds of spiritual oneness of a Family as well as defines the cultural harmony and spiritual alignment of a Nation. Hair represents the Pure and Spiritual thoughts of All Tribal People. With this being said, the way a people comb ( the alignment of thought) braid ( the oneness of thought) tie (the securing of thought) and colour (the conviction in thought) their hair is of great significance.
Hairstyles change for public, private and ceremonial occasions. The style ones hair is worn is important for it portrays and or announces the participation in various events and feelings; the state of mourning, a given time or stage of life, whether one is coming of age, marriageable or married, as well as ones age and tribal status. Different styles also signify the Tribe one belongs to as well as the Tribal Spirits one follows based on their tribe. For example, in the Southeast, many women from tribes such as the Creek and Chickasaw wore their hair on top of their heads in buns or topknots. In the Southwest, women from the Navajo and Pueblo tribes often wore their hair tied behind their heads in a kind of twist best known as a chongo, which is the Pueblo word for this particular hairstyle. Other Southwestern Indigenous Women preferred to keep their hair cut at shoulder length. One distinctive tribal hairstyle worn by Hopi women was the elaborate squash blossom or butterfly whorls worn. Only unmarried young women would wear this hairstyle.
In Eastern tribes like the Lenape and Iroquois tribes, most warrior Men would have shaved their heads except for a scalplock, which is a single lock of hair on the crown of their head, tonsure which is a fringe of hair around the head or lastly what is known as roach which is a stiff crest of hair running down the middle of the head. This roach hairstyle is often known as a Mohawk or Mohican hairstyle, named after the two tribes who were known to frequently wear this hairstyle. Men would also wear artificial roaches which were made of brightly coloured porcupine or deer hair.
Sweetgrass headbands are worn for concentration, to purify thought. The aroma of sweetgrass clears the mind. Young men are also often seen with braids of sweetgrass for personal purification rites. In some Tribes, men weave sweetgrass into their braids to unify their thoughts with Mother Earth, strengthening their thoughts of Oneness. This demonstrates the way in which hair is used to extent and bind your thoughts with others. When working with the Sacred Medicines, our intent should be as pure as the intent of our selfless Mother Earth. She wants only the best for her children. So it is very important to hold sacred thoughts, thoughts of oneness and healing, thought of empowerment and love, when braiding and using sweetgrass.
Braids symbolize Oneness and Unity. The flowing strands of hair, individually weak, but when joined together in Oneness, as done in a braid, physically demonstrates the Strength of Oneness. There are times to wear the hair braided and time to let it flow free, different times to demonstrate your harmony with the flow of life and to demonstrate your thought of Oneness to others.
One teaching I find true significance in sharing is that by attaching a lock of a loved ones hair within your own hair or by carrying their hair with you, one is able to carry the thoughts of their loved ones with them on their travels. It is extremely important to have your families spiritual support and protective thoughts in life, so important that the hair of ones family and the hair of their protective spirits was braided into a warriors battle dress for added strength and stamina.
While I tried to fit in and share as much information as possible regarding the topics featured in Part 2 of this article, remember that some of the teachings I mentioned might not necessarily correspond with your own Nation and Tribes teachings and traditions. What I hope for this article is that it opens up your curiosity to seek out and learn the teachings of your own tribe, in order to share this knowledge with the next generation so that our children can also pass on these teachings and traditions. It is our responsibly to make sure each generation to come knows and will always remember who they are, are proud of who they are, and will never forget what it means to be the strong, beautiful and resilient people that we are.