There is always an uproar when a scantily clad model, celebrity, or even our own women wear war bonnets. There is always an outcry and I have even stood my ground against this: You can not do this. It is wrong. Women do not traditionally wear headdresses like men, etc.
There have been attacks on fashion shows, Gwen Stefani, Victoria’s Secret, Halloween costumes, and these social media attacks have been successful. There re always strong women behind them, giving the reasons why our women don’t wear warbonnets. Most of the time, because they are nearly naked, the main reason is stereotyping Native women that way. As if all native women hyper sexual vamps when the rate of sexual violence against native women is higher than the national rate. The number of missing and murdered Native women is off the charts and rarely does each case see justice.
I have stated these facts as I learned them.
Then I learned that my very own great great great grandmother wore a warbonnet.
She never placed it on her head and it was there but for a brief moment. It was while posing for a picture. The warbonnet was placed on her head by Chief Sitting Bull and it belonged to him. She is wearing an elk tooth dress in the picture and the warbonnet. He put it on her because he said she earned to wear it. She fought alongside her sons and husband in the battle at Greasy Grass. She was a part of a women’s society who made sure, there were no survivors.
My unci, my grandmother was a warrior. And she wasn’t a warrior only because she fought in battle as a freedom fighter. She was a warrior because no matter what she did in life she did it as a means for survival.
She walked back from Canada to South Dakota carrying her 10 month old son, Lone Hill. All the way back she followed a wolf, she could understand him. He led her to her people. She walked back from Canada because Lone Hill’s father hit her and she left. She had no help, no domestic violence rights, no police to protect her, no shelter to go to. She walked back because she knew she wasn’t going to be treated like that. Because she missed her family, and because she wasn’t going to raise her son like that.
She found her family and went on to have more children and become a great warrior.
So see, when women wear warbonnets because they think it is sexy or cute, or because they think it is the cool, hipster thing to do, I take offense, on a personal level. My grandma was a warrior, she lived her life as such and as a woman of strength. She didn’t even have the nerve to honor herself with a warbonnet, but a great chief did.
Because she earned it.
And I know that whatever I do in this lifetime, my struggle or accomplishments will never live up to or even be half as close as her- but I will try to live my life as I hope she would be proud. A warbonnet is for those who deserve it. Warriors, and hardly anyone I see wearing them are. And that is a damn shame.