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Next to long, flowing hair, braids are perhaps the most common hairstyle of Native Americans throughout history. Braiding, also known as plaiting, is a hair weaving technique that involves crossing three or more bunches of hair over each other. Both men and women of every North American tribe wore braids, with the exception of some in the tribes of the American Southeast, California, and the peoples of the Subarctic and Arctic Regions. There were many styles of braiding, but two long braids hanging on either side of the head was the most popular with both men and women. Braided hair was sometimes ornamented with beads, feathers, or wrapped with animal skins or fur for extra decoration. Sometimes braids were worn in a specific way to indicate social status. Among the Plains Indians, for example, married women wore their two braids hanging against their chests, while unmarried women tossed their braids over their shoulders. In many tribes men wore a special braid called a scalplock that hung from the crown of their head; warriors tried to cut off each other's scalplocks with the attached skin in battle in an act called scalping.


Dubin, Lois Sherr. North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment: From Prehistory to the Present. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Paterek, Josephine. Encyclopedia of American Indian Costume. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1994.