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Headdress c.1973

Eagle feather, horsehair, silk, felt, glass beads | RCIN 70156

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A First Nations feather headdress or war bonnet in Plains style, fitted with eagle (?) feathers threaded with white horsehair (?) at the tips and with blue, red, purple and white silk ribbons hanging from each side, and a blue and white glass beaded band with the letters 'H.R.H' formed from red beads. The crown of the headdress is made from a white felt Smithbilt hat.

Feather headdresses or war bonnets are among the most revered cultural and spiritual items worn by the Indigenous communities of the Great Plains (modern-day United States and Canada). Seasoned Plains warriors earned the right to wear such headdresses by demonstrating bravery in battle or noble leadership – receiving an eagle feather for each act of valour. An elaborate war bonnet proved testament to a chief’s historic successes as well as a visually impressive status symbol.

Receiving a headdress is a mark of high esteem. Presentations have been an important and recurring element of Indigenous relations with the Crown. Members of the Royal Family who have received this honour include Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1973 and Charles, Prince of Wales in 1977.

On both occasions, the headdresses were made by Daisy Crowchild, wife of Chief David Crowchild of the Sarcee (Tsuut’ina) Nation in Alberta, Canada. Mrs Crowchild was a respected tribal elder and advocate for Indigenous education. She first met HRH Princess Elizabeth and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 1951, when they were presented with an Indigenous outfit for Prince Charles.