The Plains Indian War Bonnet was a receptacle of oral history for warriors and their tribe. Around the fire stories could be told of great acts of bravery. Feathers told individual stories of courage and daring.

An eagle tail of twelve perfect feathers
could bring the seller as much as a good horse.



Use the Plains Indian Warbonnet to improve your writing.

Indian War Bonnet Project
5/6Q Keon Park Primary School 2004

The beautiful widespreading, feathered war bonnets were developed by the Plains Indians. In the old days the bonnet was only worn on special occasions and it was highly symbolic. Its beauty was of secondary importance for its real value was in its power to protect the wearer.

The bonnet had to be earned through brave deeds in battle for the very feathers it contained were significant of the deeds themselves. Some warriors might be able to obtain only two or three honor feathers in their whole lifetime, so difficult were they to earn. The bonnet was also the mark of highest respect because it could never be worn without the consent of the leaders of the tribe. A high honor, for example, was received by the warrior who was the first to touch an enemy fallen in battle, for this meant the warrior was at the very front of fighting. Feathers were notched and decorated to designate an event. Feathers told individual stories such as killing, scalping, capturing an enemy's weapon and shield and whether the deed had been done on horseback or foot.

The eagle was considered by the Indian as the greatest and most powerful of all birds and the finest bonnets were made out of its feathers.

When about ten honors had been won the warrior then went out to secure the eagle feathers with which to make his bonnet. In some tribes these had to be purchased from an individual given special permission to hunt the bird and a tail of twelve perfect feathers could bring the seller as much as a good horse. Some tribes permitted a warrior to hunt his own eagles. This was a dangerous and time-consuming mission and meant that he had to leave the tribe and travel to the high country where the bird could be found. When the destination had been reached, ceremonies were conducted to appeal to the spirits of the birds to be killed

The history and construction of a war bonnet held a lot of oral history for the warriors and their tribe. Someone holding a completed boonnet could tell countless stories. This exercise borrows from this old tradition and guides the writer in their quest to document either their own, or the stories of others.
from The Book of American Indians by Ralph H. Raphael.

Use the Plains Indian Warbonnet in your Visual Journal

Indian War Bonnet Project - Epping Primary School

1. Life Story Telling:
Using the underside of the eagle tail as a template draw an Indian War Bonnet in your journal. Bonnets traditionally held 28 feathers. Create 28 feathers. Within each feather briefly outline meaningful events in your life.

Using the feathers as a kick starter, a kind of memory jogger, write in detail about one of these events.

2. Study of Text
When my Year 12 class working on 'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien we made a huge bonnet and filled feathers with the emotional and literal baggage that the soldiers who fought in Vietnam carried. Apart from carrying can openers, zippo lighters, kool-aid and all the standard fatigues and equipment they carried traditions, grief, memories, fear of dishonor, fear of dying, love for other people, longing and reputations.

This bonnet, along with others that we are making for individual characters, such as Lieutenant Jimmy Cross, are hanging in our room. The bonnets will enable students to refresh their knowledge and study when revision comes around. Making War Bonnets leaves doing chapter summaries for dead. Individuals pitch in and make individual feathers to ease the load for one another.

Perhaps, if you decide to make a bonnet in your visual journal, you might like to consider some of the things you carry. Taking the time to do this magically lightens the load.

3. Catharsis
Draw Indian War Bonnets in your visual journal. Make a list of:
28 times people let you down.
28 times you were disappointed.
28 times people supported you.
The potential is limitless and will lead to great cathartic writing.

4. Gratitude
"It is a queer feeling to be so utterly dependent on the help of others, but at least it teaches one to be grateful, a lesson I hope I shall never forget. In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give and life cannot be rich without gratitude. It is easy to over estimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe others."

In letters written during his incarceration Dietrich Bonhoeffer expresses gratitude for revived memories of quiet summer evenings in Friedrichsbrunn and a past as a spiritual heritage reaching back for centuries.

Using the war bonnet as a guide express gratitude to those who have helped to make you who you are today. Think of 28 reasons to award feathers to those who have helped you. Express 28 things that you are grateful for.