Long Hair in Native American Culture

In Educate by El Rubio192 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 also 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.

 
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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 as 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.

 
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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.

What other long hair cultures should we cover here?

 

Comments

  1. As a child I was overly controlled by parents. My mother sent me to have my hair cut routinely. I simply went with it. As I became an adult, I found I wanted long hair. Every time I had a relationship breakup, invariably I would cut it….still not sure why….now, in my later years I have no time to lose, I began to be true to MYSELF…and began to grow my hair out~~~~~~~ It is now 3 feet long from root to tip and I love it!!! I may never cut it as I feel so GOOD with it long. I find too, that I am more settled in my spirit and I do have Native blood from the Iroquois of New York State. It is of great interest to me to read all of your posts! I have a site on FB: Long Haired Silver Sisters…..come join us. Be well as we are all connected. Namaste.

  2. I love the unity! I feel it is ok for other cultures to wear their hair, wheter braided or long), as long as it’s not in an inappropriate manner.
    Our hair as Native and Mexican culture is truly connected by spirit and our culture. This does not mean we get to control a person’s choice of how they wear there hair. Much love~WeareOne in Spirit 💚

  3. Both of my childhood Cat’s just passed away on Saturday and I’ve been slowly integrating into the Native practices that I can and I want to cut my hair for them, I was wondering how short I should cut it (its about shoulder lenght now) and I was wondering if I should wait until their passing anniversary so I could let go more for them? If you could please help me with those questions it would be greatly appreciated.
    I also have no Native blood but I believe in the Native way’s.

    1. Author

      Sad to hear about your felines Joey. Hope they’re chasing string in kitty heaven!

  4. This article and the comments make so much sense. I am not Native American but from Europe, Slavic origin. But for some reason since childhood I got really sad when I was pushed to cut my hair. I also didn’t like the fact other people doing it. So at 10 I was big enough to resist it and 11 years later when my best friend died I made a pony tail and cut it. It felt as something I had to do and thought that everybody will see I was somehow wounded. But they didn’t. After that I had a feeling I am standing between two worlds. That my friends death cut the barrier between worlds. And I had distinguished feeling looking at the world and it was cracked with force thundering through it. And I had a dream. I walked through the desert and a Native American was there. He had a fire and some objects that looked like figurines beside him. “I have been waiting for you.” he said. He performed a ceremony and a woman with darker complexion and long black hair was suddenly beside me. We held hands. He said: a dear, a sun and a name ( I don’t feel l can write it here). Than I woke up. Somehow since than I got to enter the door of my inner self and was able to live it. It’s like, the room was always inside me but I didn’t have the conscious connection to it until than.
    I still cut my hair in times of great loss and I always do it myself. And when joy returns I let it grow again and return to the world.
    Thank you for writing the article. With my love
    Ajda

    1. Gosh
      … Its june 10, 2021 now and it’s Thursday.. on Monday we have a photoshoot in school but they said no long hair is allowed in boy or they will not take a pic of me

      Im so troubled if im gonna cut it or not

      Part of me say yes and the majority doesn’t want to

      Im 16 & im in 4th year highschool

      My last cut of hair is February 12, 2020

      So its long now and its the longest time i didnt cut it.. i feel happy especially when i washed it again lol ite refreshing

      I have black hair and im asian.. (filipino)

      And idk why im here Lol

      And i have a lot of pictures of my hair because like documentary lol

      Oh my gosh i dont wanna cut it..

      1. Don’t do it man!! If your spirit tells you not to don’t!! I have made this mistake myself because of my career and pressure from management. Never again. I will cut my hair when I feel it is time and grow it just the same. Your spirit will tell you when

      2. If you don’t “feel it” then you shouldn’t do it. If you’re school is so set on making you feel guilty for your not wanting to change who you are just for the sake of a picture ,and might I add a picture of who you aren’t instead of who you wana be, then I would take some time out and deep thought into wether or not you’re in the place you should be anyway. Just saying ,🤔

      3. Honey… I am wondering how this all worked out for you and if you ended up cutting your hair or not? I’m a Native, both Taino and a NY Mohawk. The other question I had for you, was what was your parents opinion on this when it came to this school’s policy? Did they fight this against the school board? IT IS a discriminatory policy just so you and your parents know ok? I’M an international prisoner and human rights advocate for OVER 35 yrs. Just see you’re aware also, you can file something against the DOE, Dept of Education. It’s an appeal against their decision and it’s called an ARTICLE 78. An article 78 is an appeal that you can file against ANY ADMINISTRATIVE BODY in this country. Depending on your family’s finances, you can also file this for free in court. You file it under a poor persons status~that status is called a PAUPERUS MOTION. Now if you file it into court under that status, your parents may have to prove they CANNOT afford the filing fees. I believe it’s $100 initially, and the court MAY AUTOMATICALLY refuse it. Then when you file again they try to hit you up for $300. THAT’S to purposely deter people from putting this filing in against an entity. YUP! I go to this all the time when it comes to jails and prisons. I deal with every level of the system, from my juvies to people on Death Row. So if your family feels that this is part of their culture, or part of your religious beliefs in some way? THEN they can use this filing in court… I hope you understand how this schools policy was constitutes as a violation of your human and civil rights under the US Constitution. If this is part of your culture, or religious beliefs to keep your hair long? THEN THEY ARE denying you the right to your freedom of religion. IF you need help with this there ARE places that can give you free counsel. You can contact the Southern Poverty Law Center. There is also an Asian law activist group which I cannot remember the name of right now. I’m sorry about that because there’s several that I deal with. I’m not sure where you’re located but I’m on Long Island New York. So I deal with quite a lot that are on Long Island and in NYC, I can’t remember all of their names, but they are some of the hard hitters over here. Also you can contact the AFSC, American friends Service Committee. They have several branches throughout the country, they combine state groupings. So you have to see WHICH section you fall under your state falls under. The AFSC is the first human rights organization in the country, but it is now International. They deal with every level civil rights, human rights. Constitutional rights, advocacy groups, the UN. All their people are either pro bono or free when it comes to their services. I’ve dealt with them roughly 15 yrs to the NYC office in Manhattan. I just want to make you aware of this because this is nothing new and there’s a violation of your rights. I strongly suggest that your parents look into this option even if you have cut your hair already. I say this because this policy needs to be ended when it comes to other children after you graduate. Please let me know how this worked out for you ok?

  5. I have lost 5kids 2grand parents and a few dear friends within 10years. It always felt like keeping my hair very long ment keeping them very close to me. Until this morning when i v realised that grief is me second skin and there has to be a change. Spontaneously i v cut my hair. From hip length to sholder length . And it feels like a new drop of freedom from grief. I v always found hair cuts to be heart breaking but right now i feel nothing short from “Yey – out with the old drama, in with a new more mature ,me” . It feels right . The cut hair was and engraved in it so much pain and it feels like i v let go of that pain.
    Fair enough i will need a professional to make it absolutely straight but even that thought of having someone cut a tad more, feels right.

    And then i v read the bit relating to cutting the hair after a death in the family -and then respect the cut bit.

    It feels even more Right!

    Feel free to reply if you wish

  6. I have been a nurse for many years and would often ( especially cancer patients ) would have my patients tell me their hair hurt, I chalked it up to their head hurt. I then contracted Lymes disease and my hair hurt ..oh let me tell you it is real. After healing from the disease I guess I have not felt the sensation of my hair unless I’m outside and the wind is blowing it then I feel my hair.

    1. My father in law passed last Wednesday at age 82 and I was pretty close to him so I cut about 4 inches off my hair. My now ex husband is dying of stage 4 colon cancer and is in hospice. Yes we are divorced because he had an affair and wanted one. He hurt me to the core. I was mad for a long time but that has passed and I have forgiven him. I still love him. I gave him 32 years of my life and a beautiful son so when he passes which is going to be soon I fear I will cut my hair more. I do have native blood just not sure what tribe. Am I doing right??

  7. I have a question, would it be considered cultural appropriation for a non-native to grow out their hair for the same reasons as native americans do? And cut it for the same reasons as well?

    1. As a native i say no as long as you’re following the same reasoning

  8. Hello sorry to bother everyone I just have a question, I have native blood in my family but my closest friend to me he was like a brother just passed away and I keep getting the feeling I need to cut my hair and leave it with him is this normal, please and thank you

    1. Yes it is very normal. When my grandfather passed all us women in the family braided and cut our hair wrapped it around sage and had it cremated with my grandfather.

    2. If you feel this way, then yes. Absolutely. My tribe doesn’t cut our hair for a year after the death of a loved one, and other tribes cut it immediately after the passing of a loved one. Do you know your tribal connection?

        1. Author

          Great question. I don’t know the answer but it’s something we need to learn more about!

          1. The white man started that when the government offered payment for every indian they killed. In order to prove they had killed, they scalped to show proof. Natives began doing it in return.

        2. Jon, during the time when the French still had influence over the northern American Great Plains, they introduced scalping for bounties. The way to tell the person was dead (living people don’t generally like getting scalped) was to remove the scalp, if the hair was long, and generally black, it was easy to identify as (most likely) being the scalp of a Lakota. Natives did this in originally in retaliation, than when it spread as a fear tactic. Humans have deployed psychological warfare for millennia. From a siege blowing horns to keep inhabitants awake, to sending the heads of your defeated soldiers over your walls via catapult, to desecration of bodies.

        3. Scalping was not introduced by Native Americans , it was introduced by white men for proof of the the killing of a soldier of their enemy, the scalp was presented to receive payment for that killing.

          1. Spottedtail, I see the confusion. I thought it was simply implied that scalping was from the French. Looking back at my previous comment, I realize that the way I wrote it made it seem like it was the Lakota who started the practice. Just to reiterate, it was indeed the French who paid for bounties on Lakota scalps.

      1. I have suix and crow Indian. My dad passed four years ago February 2. I grow my hair out for a year and then cut it after his death day. My hair was long when he passed and I have kind of made it a tradition to do it once a year since not realizing it is a custom in Native American tradition. So it must be in coded in my DNA??

        1. Author

          Interesting Amanda, thank you for sharing. Maybe it is coded in your DNA…

    3. Hey Trent
      I’m sorry for your loss!

      If your intuition is telling you something you always gotta listen, even if you think it’s odd. Intuition is one of the strongest powers we as humans have, so we have to cherish it!

    4. When my significant other, my love, passed away, I cut my hair. Then I dyed it . He loved my long silver hair. But I knew my hair hair had to go. I’m so sad.Nita

    5. Yes, completely normal. Please research ceremonial burning of your hair

  9. Even though I have read about boys banned from school, and realize that school administrators in rural Texas are generally stuck in the 50s, this item about a Native American boy is still sad nevertheless. I found him on a long hair website, was five, and wore long, beautifully epic braids. Unfortunately, his parents had to choose for him between school and his culture. To all the Oyaté parents facing a similar situation with your sons, let them continue to embrace, honor, and respect their traditions and heritage, and yours as well, even if it means that nobody accepts them and they are home schooled. Do not let the fools stuck in the Eisenhower era take away any part of their culture; instead they should flaunt it proudly and defiantly. The boys should keep rocking their beautiful, beautiful braids for life. A’ho!

  10. This is a good thing you do here!

    I am longhair Eagle Warrior-
    I came to your web page searching for an answer-
    Why trusting my intuition is power like no other-
    While reading the comments of your guest and brothers-
    It was reveled to me-
    I feel confident and understand the great wisdom of my ancestors-
    When I trust myself through my first instinct-

    Thank you for being here for us all!

    1. I was in a phone store yesterdayand a tall man with black ling braided hair turned around and gave me a few second eye to eye contact.
      I have long hair myself.
      And have been told my aura is white light and turquoise.
      Did he notice me with his back turned towards me. I believe so !

  11. Fascinating information & thoughts shared here. Without even knowing why, I’ve always “shorn” my locks during times of deep grief (like now – having just lost my fur baby of many years) & great change. I may not have NorthAm Native genes, but my Indigenous relatives & friends easily see my deep-seated “witchy”/spiritual connections to Gaia, the Spirits & the animals that roam this planet – now & in the past. Always saw spirit animals & occasional human & ?? ones since birth. Guess this could explain why my hair was always cut short by my religious mother (and I was mistakenly called “Jamie” by the neighbour kids when young).
    The important thing, to me, is that we respect & cherish ourselves, each other, and everything/one on this planet & beyond as we are ALL connected. Hugs & respect to all.

  12. The older I get, the more I believe that I am not an American but a Scandinavian who was born and raised here, whereas the people who are the main focus of this article are the true Americans, and those of them who embrace, preserve, and carry on their traditions and heritage are among the most beautiful people in the United States. Aho!

  13. I’m cutting my hair in mourning. I appreciate your guys’ thoughts on the matter. Took me 4 years to grow it. But I think I want to do it as a reminder of how much everything has to start over.

    1. Author

      May you find strength in your grief, Jarrod, and new beginnings.

      1. I have a hidden tattoo and my mother had a bad dream about it. She didn’t know of the tattoo. I think I’ll cut my hair as a sign of resentment and moving forward

    2. I have attending many funerals this year, 2020. One was a dear mentor, training me to take his place in many volunteer programs. During a funeral for a very nice man, a rock in his universe, I felt a need to cut my hair. I know many people will just assume it is a fashion change. I wear my hair nature all my life. In additional to cutting the hair, I vision changing it to a deep red?! I do feel my hair connects me to the world around me and allows me to be more effective to needs of others. I fear of becoming disconnected. My husband has asked that we change our living habits. Starting more exercise and better planning of meals. Maybe this drastic hair change will help me break for the old habits.

    3. I commend you for the perhaps difficult decision that you made regarding cutting your hair. As you already know new changes and fresh beginnings will spring forth once again. A’ho

  14. The most beautiful girl in the world is from South Africa and she keeps short hair. Ugh talking about power yet??

    1. Depending on that girl’s past and current life, remember that maybe she may be trying to disconmect, from her world, for unknown reasons, to you. My best friend is from there. It is a hard life for women there. I just cut my long, beautiful hair off. I felt pulled to do it. I didn’t know why, exactly
      I just knew, it needed to be done. Right now, after cutting it all off, and feeling better for it, I understand why. I have dreams of doing it. I lost my favorite, best friend uncle. My fater. Then, a best friend. All within the past 3 months. I am 1/16th Native American. I did it. Then, researchered. Makes it All make sense.

  15. In my youth I had long beautiful hair. After having my first child I chopped it real short because it felt natural and the right next thing for me to do. Looking back it represented my initiation and step forward into womanhood and motherhood. Chopping off the old hair was like chopping off my youth and the past choices I no longer wanted to carry. Over the years I grew it out and cut it and and was always content with my hair because I just let it grow organically and rarely applied any chemicals or products to it … until I entered a Karmic soulmate relationship that would change my entire existence. It was a dark and toxic relationship I endured and as of right now a few months post breakup my hair is about armpits length and artificially colored black. I colored it dark once just to change it up from my natural brown hue and since then I could never get it lighter with at home treatments. It’s taken me a painful year of attempts to breaking it off with the guy and realizing that my whole self esteem got shot way down during my time with him. All the money and energy I put into the relationship I can finally put back into myself and I will finally be getting some much needed help by a professional who understands my deep desire to refresh and reset my hair to as natural as possible. We plan to cut off enough to collarbone length and get it looking brown again…to match my brown eyes. I’ve been wanting to grow it out long but it has changed dramatically since the birth of my child so I’m doing my best to care and love it as best I can while I train myself to love and care for myself as best as I can as I rebuild a whole new life and existence for myself and daughter. I’m excited for my transformation now that the battle is finally over with the guy. I am ready for change and ready to release the old and darkness. As far as my gifts… I can honestly say since having my child and deciding to breakup with the guy my senses and gifts are heightened. Because I Believe I set the intention for my intuition to be stronger and practice being with my soul and higher self everyday. I do believe I will feel much more invigorated after my hair appt next week and my gifts of knowing and visions will only get stronger as will my esteem and confidence. In mind, body, heart and soul I believe I will be lighter and brighter.

    1. Author

      Heck yeah!

      “In mind, body, heart and soul I believe I will be lighter and brighter.”

      Thanks for sharing, wishing you well.

    2. It takes a physically strong man to wear long hair. Tell me, what does it mean when he shows his hair to a woman?

      1. There is a Rastafarian practice or belief is that his head is to be covered by a turban of sorts and the only person that is to be allowed to see his locks is his woman (wife).

      2. What doses if mean when a woman wears the hair braid on left side of head ? Thanks

  16. Long hair gives me a headache, neck ache, oily face, and it knots so easy around my neck. I feel tired and lethargic even depressed with long hair. When my hair is short (bob to chin with shag layers) then I feel energized and creative and full of life. Maybe because my genes are of northern/eastern hemisphere. Maybe because I was born under Aquarius sun Leo moon which is air & fire sign. I don’t know but it would be interesting why some spiritual practices shave head and some do not. It is our responsibility to connect heaven and earth with our hair and bodily energy systems. Do we each take our part in that through grooming styles? I love my long hair and love how it looks but I feel so bad with it. Am I supposed to ? No. That is just ego. So I keep it short-shag-style and do my job here on earth for heaven to unite and the universe to be balanced. Right?

  17. I keep my knee length braids in honor of the ancestors and for those whom had their hair cut in the residential schools.
    Aboriginal blood will never be silenced!

    1. I have more questions and comments for me it seems that I’m honoring God by keeping my hair long and for me it’s a spiritual mean I can’t seem to back this up but anything I can find in the Bible short of the story of Samson I have found it in other religions and in the Native American culture that I’ve read in this article I haven’t cut my hair for 12 years and it doesn’t seem that I intend to soon I found that there is a certain amount of discrimination that I run into from time to time and pre-judgment by the length of my hair and not by my own personality and what’s inside so for me it’s a way of somehow determining what peoples intentions might be in their sincerity if I’m being judged barely by my hair what sort of person am I dealing with a narrowminded one in my view thanks for all your interesting commentsOh my best so are you from Montana

      1. I understand. My mom harped on me as I turned 20 and married that it was time for my to start wearing my hair short. I have kept my hair long, below my shoulders even during my 20+ years in the Army. I would wear it up anytime I visited my folks. My dad liked it long. Anytime it was just him and I would let it down. Upon visiting mother in the hospital, I made the deal with her to cut my hair when she was discharged. I had received a call that if I wanted to visit and tell her good bye I needed to come. (I had not the understanding the doctors has just brought her in from placing a pacemaker. ) She was discharged the next morning. Within the hour of being home she called her hair stylist. That afternoon I was sitting in a chair having 24 inches of hair cutoff. My God played a trick on my mother, who always had to perm her hair. My hair is curly. As the lady cut it at my shoulders, it curled up and was 3 inches shorter than planned. My mother found she did not like my new short hair.

    2. I like that you do it in honor of the ancestors and for those who were oppressed while in the residential schools

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