Long hair in native american culture

Long Hair in Native American Culture

In Educate by Chelsea Levenson35 Comments

Longhair Traditions

Many cultures around the world, from Native Americans to Sikhs, believe that hair has a special significance. Cultural beliefs about our hair and how it can affect us go back as far as recorded history. Many ancient cultures believed there is power in uncut hair.

While each culture and belief is distinct, many are strangely similar. We’re going to dive into some different long hair cultures in a new series we’re calling Longhair Traditions. For this first post we’re starting close to home with long hair in Native American culture.

Native American cultures and beliefs vary widely between tribes and peoples, so rather than generalize all Native American culture we’ve pointed out some fascinating highlights across different cultures.

Who grows their hair?
Both men and women are encouraged to grow their hair. There are often special ceremonies for the first haircut, but after that they let it grow. There is significance in the way the hair is worn. There is a way to wear the hair for many ceremonies and dances. For many Native Americans, braided hair signifies unity with the infinite, and allowing the hair to flow freely signifies the free flow of life.

Why grow long hair?
Their beliefs around long hair, as many of their beliefs, are tied to the earth and nature. The long hair has symbolic significance tying them to mother earth whose hair is long grasses. Many Native Americans believe their hair is a physical manifestation of the growth of the spirit, and some say it allows for extrasensory perception, and connection to all things.

What does cutting the hair signify?
Many tribes cut their hair when there is a death in the immediate family. Its an outward symbol of the deep sadness and a physical reminder of the loss. The cut hair represents the time with their loved one, which is over and gone, and the new growth is the life after.

The cutting of hair can also signify separating from past actions or thoughts. When a Native American cuts their hair, the hair is often treated with respect. It can be placed into a flowing river, buried, or burned.

Long Hair and Superpowers
Samson notwithstanding, some Native American tribes even believe that the hair is connected to the nervous system. That long hair reaches out like tentacles, and pulls energy and information from the world around us similar to a cat’s whiskers.

We’ve come across different versions of a story about the Vietnam war, where skilled Native American trackers were recruited for their abilities as scouts by the US Army. It’s said that after joining the Army and getting their military haircuts, they lost their powers and failed to perform in the field.

Whatever credit you give the story, the idea of feeling through your hair has merit. It’s certainly true each hair creates a contact point with your scalp. And with long hair, those are thousands of extended touch points bringing in tactile sensory information from your surrounding environment. From that standpoint, the notion of “feeling the world” around us doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

These are just a few of the interesting cultures and beliefs we’ve come across. Dive a little deeper in this post, including videos of Native Americans describing the significance of their long hair.

We write this post with respect and appreciation for all cultures. If you have anything to add, please share in the comments or contact us directly.

Do you think long hair increases your powers of perception?

What other long hair cultures should we cover here?

Comments

  1. I’d really appreciate it if you could to a topic on long hair and its significance for either Nordic or Latin American (preferably aztec or mayan)!!

    1. Author

      Nice suggestions. Those would both be interesting to explore. I am thinking Vikings next!

  2. Relating this article to the modern western world, I do feel there is a social perception of longhairs challenging standardised culture, taking a different approach to life and intentionally standing out. Within the business industry it’s often seen as non-conformist or rebellious which can be a negative as individuals struggle to relate with the person (out-group). Alternatively within the metal music community I think there are deep roots and connections with those long hairs especially the sense of belonging and being ‘one of us’ (in-group). Fascinating article especially about cultural identity.

    1. As the grandchild of two Blackfoot Native Americans, I would like to point out that the traditions, which were passed to my siblings and I from as early as I can remember, date back to a time before Columbus came and “discovered” America, and LONG before heavy metal music. Every depiction I have ever seen of Christopher Columbus, he has hair down past his ears and neck. Our long hair is believed to connect us to nature and the earth. It is a symbol of strength and power. Hair is only cut when mourning the loss of a close loved one and there is a ceremony that accompanies the placement of the hair back into the earth. It is cut to show the world we are mourning. To have someone cut our hair, as they did to my Grandmother, is humiliating, a sign of defeat, and strips away part of us that carries the stories of our life. Native Americans with their Headdresses, tribal dances, moccasins, rituals, and numerous other traditions, were here before anyone else and lived lives steeped heavily in tradition and culture. To Native Americans, whose land was taken from them, short hair is seen as a weakness and carries negative implications. Personally, I feel judging someone based on the length of their hair is beyond ignorant. My brother has a Mohawk, which is another accepted hairstyle in our culture, and works as the head chef at a five-star restaurant and owns a non-profit animal rescue. Both my sisters and I graduated college with honors and have hair around or past our hips. In no way is our hair a symbol of defiance or a way to “stand out,” we are proud to carry traditions of our family and have that amount of respect for our grandparents and ancestors that we deal with the inconvenience of having such long hair. I am proud to have been raised by parents who taught us not to judge others based on anything but the content of their character and the interactions we personally have with them.

  3. I’ve had long hair in the past. Nearly to my waist, but cut it all off in 2003. For the past several years, I’d get one cut a year. We’d take me down to a really short cut, then I’d enjoy the process of growing out some freaking awesome shag. It was a really fun process of having to change up hair styles every 3-4 weeks, in order to keep up with the growth.

    In Jan2015, however, as my spiritual awakening began to happen, I found myself wanting to have long hair again. I didn’t know that I was finally waking up into fully realized spiritual existence, until the following September. So, I the desire to grow my hair back out wasn’t a conscious connection with the other process. It is who I am. I’m sure that my future incarnations are going to want to have kick-ass long hair, too. 😀

    I’ve always been highly intuitive, but it was a hot mess running on auto pilot. I can’t say that my longer hair has heightened my “gifts”, because it also coincides with me learning to listen to them more. And, correlation not being equal to causation, I cannot factually claim that my longer hair is making me more intuitive than before. It’s a good idea though, and is much more interesting a story than mere boring coincidence.

    1. Author

      I agree that how we wear our hair can be tied to how we feel. I’ve gone through periods of change, and all I wanted to do is chop all my hair off, like the hair was holding me to my old patterns. It’s interesting to consider that your hair could be helping you harness your intuition. That makes me think about the common belief that women are more intuitive than men. Could it be somehow tied to hair length?

  4. No se sinlla lo hicieron pero hablen de Sanson que tenia la fuerza por su pelo.

  5. I’d like to hear some history and theories on the reason why Japanese samuri grow their hair and wear it. I’ve heard stories of how hair symbolizes honor amongst fellow samuri, and whenever the hair is cut it represents a great loss of honor and respect. I’ve been growing my hair for over a year now, and I can definitely relate to some of the ideas and beliefs from the Native Americans. I respect their cultural values, and understand the connection with nature and spirit.

  6. On the other spectrum of Longhairs, I have worked with Buddhist communities in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia and they remove all of their hair–head, arms, legs, chest, eyebrows, etc. When men and women go into the monastic community, they cut their hair as a symbol of purification– non-attachment of ego and self. I find this of particular interest knowing how much time and energy Longhairs spend caring for our hair and often times defines us. This concept might be an interesting topic to write or do an audio blog. Possibly someone at the Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, CA would be available to speak with and share?

    1. Author

      The hair removal of Buddhist Monks is a topic worthy of further discussion. As we well know, it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to groom hair. We spend so much time on our outward appearance. I can see that there would be more time for spiritual growth without that vanity, and instead turning those efforts inwards. It would be fascinating to interview someone that had taken the vows, and shaved their body to see how they felt doing it and how it affected them.

  7. I definitely think my long hair increased my perception of feeling wind and it’s driving me crazy. 😀

    I think every culture had one point in history where long hairs would be the way to go. I feel like the vikings are one of the most commonly known Longhairs in history, so that would be a good next stop for the “Longhair Traditions” journey.
    Also in my opinion Japan in the Edo-Period had some interesting hairstyles. The “chonmage” for example (wich is still worn by sumo-wrestlers) is a fancy, interesting and pretty rad one.

  8. I was very surprised how emotionally attached I became to my longer hair when I finally decided to just let it grow! With long hair I feel more confident than I ever did with short hair, …maybe because for the first time ever, I’m living as my authentic self. My long hair appears epic, as though I stepped out of the pages of a historical time line!

  9. I do feel longhairs generally are more in tune with enjoying life and things like nature. I feel like the growth process really makes you appreciate your hair and makes it feel rare, and the Viking culture would make a badass article

  10. To be completely honest I have been waiting for the cultural (Mainly Native American) reference article to be created. I happen to be Native American and I actually began growing my flow out since my first year of college. I truly started to feel my connection with Mother Earth and The Creator. I do also understand and respect other cultural beliefs such as the Rastafarians, where the longer your hair means the older you are and with that comes respect for ones elders. I also appreciate the story of Samson where his locks signify his strength. This was a very great read and I appreciate the accuracy. Keep them coming, YEEE!!!

    1. Author

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this article, and you felt it was accurate. One of my main goals in this series is to accurately and respectfully describe the traditions and cultures that we feature, so its great to get positive feedback from you. I definitely plan to do a post on the Rastafarians, so stay tuned.

  11. Congratulations to the creators of this site. Take note, be sure that you notice, that all your hard work has led to a person who is a non-native English speaker translating an article for you . Finding your efforts important/VALID enough to take their time to translate it into French. That’s pretty freaking…. HONEST!

  12. This is fascinating…it made me interested enough to see (on Amazon) if there are any books on the subject (and I didn’t find much…titles about styling and one book of poetry about boys and long hair). Then I started thinking that you guys should write it…to include history/culture re male long hair, section re nutrients for long hair; styling for various occasions/with/without hat…always with your bands; how to flip it…etc etc. I have a feeling your site may mark the beginning of a movement…with that in mind, a book from you guys might be a nice torpedo/additional product.

    1. We’re writing it, one blog post at a time. Thanks for the book idea and for writing in!

  13. I have naturally wavy hair, and before I cut it off, it was half way down my back. However, I hated it, and I never understood it. So one day, I did a pixie cut and it did so many things. For starters, it automatically weeded out judgemental superficial people. Guys who wanted to date me before now had no interest. Some girls avoided me because all women with short hair are lesbians right? Ignorance…So it taught me about character in general. It complimented my face shape and it made me confident. Then, with having such a small amount of hair to maintain, I learned the chemistry of my hair and how to make it healthy, and also how to make my natural waves smooth and beautiful. Now that I am growing it back out, I begin the journey in full understanding of my hair, that ties me to nature and that spiritual wild side, and also with a new perspective on human nature. It’s taught me to be aware, and in some ways…to be feral. The drastic reset button of sorts gave me some things that I was missing. It’s just hair, but then again, it’s not.

    1. Great comment Gadawggrl, appreciate reading your story. While it’s the opposite of most people here, it’s very much the same. Glad you came across The Longhairs and decided to share.

    2. That’s pretty awesome! I’ve never thought of it that way.

  14. My hair is my religion, it represents my faith , my culture and my tribe.

    My Hair Is ….
    a figure of majesty
    a promise of integrity
    a crown of dignity
    the force of equality
    a symbol of my faith
    a way to stand out .

  15. Many thanks for this blog! I’ve always wondered about various reasons for long hair from different cultures around the world. I definitely agree that doing a post on Vikings or perhaps early Picts/Celts or any pre-Roman European tribe would be excellent. I had long hair in my 20s and then cut it in my later 20s only to let it grow again in my 40s. I realized recently that I started letting it grow longer after a trip to South Dakota about 5 1/2 years ago. Even though I don’t have any indigenous blood, I seem to connect with many of their beliefs. My own indigenous backround would be generically called “celtic” I suppose and unfortunately, it is hard to find very much on any pre-Roman tribes of Europe. The bit of reading I’ve done does suggest many similarities between native Americans and ancient Celts. A good book I read a year or so ago called “The Druids” by Stuart Piggott has a couple of pages showing old Britons with war paint and long hair (during Caesar’s time) side by side with pictures of native Americans around the 16th century.

    1. Yo Brett, great comment man! Thanks for writing in, would love to see that picture. You could send it via DM on Instagram or to greathair at thelonghairs.us

      Glad you liked the post amigo!

  16. The Celtic people have many historical and cultural beliefs based on hair length, and hair color. Many are related to the spiritual life. This might be interesting to investgate.

    1. Yes Pat we’ve heard that too! Need to dig a little deeper on that one.

      Thanks for writing in!

  17. The black girls and white girls fight over their hair ALL the damn time! A white girl will flick her long locks when the black girls walk past and then a massive fight will break out. Over HAIR. Makes me crazy. I know it’s more about the myth of beauty…

  18. Dana
    It would be cool to see the people who committed how they wear their long hair and I seem to always fighting the shedding of hair it seems to be everywhere I Don’t know if it worse cause I am in a wheelchair or its that way for all.

  19. A dear friend died a few days ago. Her husband was a Native American. One of their sons has been involved in his tribes traditions. The family held an open house this afternoon, and I noticed their son had cut off his long hair. I asked about it, and he said there are reasons for cutting ones hair. I asked if it was a culture thing, and a ceremonial thing, and he said yes. He told me he took a knife, and cut off his braid. I just did a google search to see if the hair cutting was due to his mother’s death. Thank you for the article.

    1. Our condolences for your loss, Nancy. Glad you found the article here and thank you for sharing your experience.

      Warm wishes to you and the family.

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