Indians across North America smeared bear grease, or bear fat, and other oils on their hair to make it shine. Similar substances for smoothing and shining the hair were raccoon fat and deer marrow, a material found inside bones. Both men and women of the Delaware, Huron, and Sauk tribes of the Northeast smoothed bear grease onto their hair daily. The Plains Indians also shined their hair with bear grease and used other oils soaked with herbs to perfume the hair. The Crow Indians of the Plains took special pride in their long hair. They used bear grease or buffalo dung to stiffen curls they made with a heated stick, and they also applied cactus pulp to make their hair shine. Men of the Dakota Sioux shaved their heads bald with the exception of a tuft left on top of their head, which they coated with a mixture of red ocher (a type of reddish clay) dye and bear grease to stand the hair on end. The Pawnee stiffened their roach, or Mohawk (a ridge of hair sticking straight up, running down the center of the head from the forehead to the nape of the neck), with grease and red paint. Of all the Plateau Indians, only the Kutenai men stiffened their hair to stand on end with bear grease or buffalo dung. The tribes of the Northwest, including the Bella Coola, Kwakiutl, and Nootka tribes, used so much bear grease and red ocher on their hair that it was hard to see the hair's original black color. In the Southeast as well as in the Subarctic and Arctic, many peoples, including the Pacific Eskimo, slathered their hair with grease and oil and painted it red for special occasions.
Bear grease was not used among tribes in the Southwest or California, but these Indians did other things to beautify their hair. Some blackened their hair with various recipes, painted their hair with red paint at the part or the ends, painted white horizontal stripes on their hair, or wrapped their locks into elaborate styles with ties, including the figure-eight shaped bun called the chongo, which was a popular style among the Indians of the Southwest.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.
Hofsinde, Robert. Indian Costumes. New York: William Morrow, 1968.
Hungry Wolf, Adolf. Traditional Dress: Knowledge and Methods of Old-Time Clothing. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Co., 1990.
Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994.
[See also Volume 2, Native American Cultures: Mohawk ]
"Bear Grease." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 23, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bear-grease
"Bear Grease." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved January 23, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bear-grease
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.