Thursday

In most Native cultures, hair contains the essence of the soul, and this is why most Native peoples grew their hair long.

 One of the issues that many Native American men and boys have faced concerns long hair. For them long hair is not a stylistic concern, but is a spiritual issue. For many Native Americans having long hair is a symbol of tribal traditions which teach that hair is only to be cut when one is in mourning for the death of a close relative.

For many centuries the Hopi in Northern Arizona had grown corn. The corn depended on rain. Hopi men wore-and many still continue to wear-their hair long as a symbol of the falling rain for which they prayed. In spite of this, in 1904 the Indian agent forced a number of Hopi men to have their hair cut. Among the Hopi, for a man to have his hair cut during the growing season was tantamount to asking that the corn stop growing.

Traditional Apaches believe that the only time one should cut one’s hair is when a relative dies. In 1993, the Wickiup, Arizona schools refused to allow a traditional Apache boy to attend classes be¬cause he has a long braid. Among the Akimel O’odham, people traditionally cut their hair after the death of a loved one.

Michael Linklater says he cannot remember when he last cut his hair.

"I wear a braid to honour my ancestors and my culture," says Linklater, who is Nehiyaw (Cree) from Thunderchild First Nation, Sask.

Photo Credit: Levi Blackwolf
For some, long hair are a symbol of strength, wisdom, and are something that reflects their identity. Many Native says that long hair has a cultural significance, and many felt a connection to the creator, their ancestors and the earth.

"When my brother died, I offered my hair to the Creator for safe passage for his spirit. He was a mighty warrior in our clan. My hair is not a cheap, disposable haircut you can buy for 15 bucks at a store on a corner. It's my connection to the Creator and shows the patience and care I have with myself as well," says Kyle Daniels.

Photo Credit: Nancy G

"I have often heard that, for Navajo people, hair is our memory. Before my traditional Navajo wedding, my long hair (it went down to my waist) was washed with yucca root. It foams up quickly. Afterward, my hair was brushed with a bundle of stiff grass called a be’ezo. I still have that bundle and I occasionally brush my children’s hair with it. The act of caring for the hair, one relative to another, like my grandmother and family did for me, is an expression of love to me. Sharing it with my children feels natural. In fact, I cannot imagine not doing it. I can still hear my mother, my shi má making comments in Navajo as she brushed my hair. " says Jacqueline Keeler, a Navajo woman.

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Responses to "Spiritual Power of Long Hair: A Symbol of Strength, Wisdom and Identity"

  1. It isn't just Native people for whom long hair has powerful symbolism. I'm as European-American as it gets; I'm also a Witch, specifically a Wiccan high priestess. And while long hair isn't universal among female Witches, it is very common, especially as we age. At 66 and going gray, I value the look of the ancient Crone Goddess,the mysterious, powerful, sometimes fearsome grandmother who is compassionate but takes no shit and speaks truth to power. Her hair is a sheet of silver fire or rippling, steel-colored water, and soon mine will be too. It's already halfway down my back, and I'm not planning to get it cut, other than a trim for split ends. Btw, I know a fair number of male Witches (please don't call them warlocks--that means "oathbreaker", not "male Witch") who have long hair and beards.

  2. Suelo says:

    Yes.
    A Lakota leader got me realizing how this is all Rome, still going strong today.

    Yeah, short hair has been the do of the Roman empire for thousands of years. It means conquest & domestication of nature, colonization of barbarian native people (barbarian means hairy, what the Romans called my northern Euro ancestors before they were subjugated to also become Romans), militaristic submission to authority, the stripping of individual unique power. Sheer the sheep, mow the lawns, get a job.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My hair is still growing I had 2 half inches trimmed off but i will let grow as long as i live ..i'm not native of any clan but i wish i had just a drop of their blood running in my veins i wold be so proud so proud..my twin sister thinks very long hair is gross little does she know right,, i would love to do a DNA test to see if i do bt at the same time i fear it to find that my forefathers took part in any crime against these beautiful people..

  4. Anonymous says:

    http://www.army-armee.forces.gc.ca/en/news-publications/national-news-details-no-menu.page?doc=soldiers-with-braids-a-matter-of-identity-tradition-and-pride/j0ts8d77

  5. They say we're not going around with a man that we know can do anything that has long dark hair. The Muckleshoot's all say cut your hair and do whatever it is that they can't and come back and regrow it. We will say nothing. I did and have not been able to grow it out long ever since. Thank you to all of you that do.

  6. Unknown says:

    Hair is an extension of the neurosystem. It's a proven scientific fact that people with long hair have more intuitive skills, better tracking abilities, more awareness of their surroundings and more access to their sixth senses. To cute the hair means to become a system robot, with diminished reasoning and critical thinking skills. It's a personal choice, of course, but I choose to let mine grow!






  7. I am Yurok Indian from Northern California I was taught that the longer the hair the closer your connection to mother Earth was which is why we cut it when a loved one dies so that we do not hurt terribly we also send our hair with the deceased for passage.

  8. Lopaka says:

    My hair is below my tailbone braided. I'm Hawaiian. My Friend from Tonga would braid it at work and tell me to never cut it. People ask all the time why I don't cut it or when was the last time I cut it. My Tutu (grandmother) would play with her twin in the jungles if Hawaii and get knots in their hair. My great Tutu would be angry and cut it instead of brush it out. She always said to brush it each night. I read studies were done by the military who used native scouts who lost abilities to see ahead when they cut their hair. They allowed them to keep long hair. When I danced hula it was good to honor our ancestors and have our hair long. It's a part of me. Interesting how some call it a Viking braid. Many native cultures celebrate long hair and consider it sacred.

  9. Unknown says:

    At 66 my hair is a beautiful, thick platinum blonde down to my waist. People always ask why don't you cut it, and I tell them it is my identity and I don't wish to look like every other old lady out there. People remember me because of it but it also represents my status as crone. I would sooner cut off my arm than my hair!

  10. Reece says:

    I will say this : it feels SO GOOD to read your posts and the article which generated them... It is reassuring too.
    Not all Amerindian people wore their hair long all the time, before the invader forced them otherwise, as it's been well explained in some of the previous posts from this article.
    But most of them did for long periods of their lives if not all of it. That is something you could find from up north of North America down to south of South America.
    It is not like that any more.

    Nowadays, most of Amerindian people, regardless which Nation they are from and even many among those who consider themselves and are considered among their Nation as Traditionalists, wear their hair short.
    I am not Amerindian, I've had my hair short, very short (even totally shaved) during various periods of my life but chose to wear it long because I've always preferred it that way and felt more comfortable with it that way.
    Of course, that has gotten me in some difficulties sometimes, some challenge from other people and it did have a stalling effect on some promotion opportunities in part of my career at times, but it is a personal choice I made.

    So I am not judging nor making any statement about Amerindian people who wear their hair short, as there can be many different reasons for that, but one of them remains to this day and is the one which I consider discriminatory therefore unfair :
    the pressure, openly expressed or insinuated, of a "dominant society" which weight on you to blend into the "herd", for no other real reason than that :"blending in".

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