M182 | Headdress

 
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Headdress
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Iroquois?
1775-1800, 18th century
Deer head skin with antlers, tanned hide and thongs, porcupine quills, eagle and owl feathers, down, stroud, sinew, red ochre
54 x 41 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
M182
© McCord Museum
Description
Keywords:  Headdress (38)

Description

David Ross McCord acquired this Iroquois headdress in the belief that it had been worn by the famous Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, born in 1768 and killed in 1813 at the Battle of Moraviantown. This rare headdress comprises a complete deer-head skin with antlers, eagle feathers, porcupine quills and red ochre. Though we cannot be certain that McCord's attribution is correct, numerous stylistic elements suggest that the headdress is indeed Iroquois. The form of the headband and cap resemble those of the 19th-century Iroquois man's headdress called a gostoweh. In Iroquois tradition, antlered headdresses are worn by chiefs.

Keys to History

David Ross McCord (1844-1930), founder of the McCord Museum, built an important ethnographic collection representing indigenous people from across Canada.

McCord obtained this rare, late 18th-century Iroquois headdress in the belief that it had been worn by the famous Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, who was born in 1768 and killed in 1813 at the Battle of Moraviantown, in the War of 1812. Though it is not certain that McCord's attribution is correct, numerous stylistic elements suggest that the headdress is indeed Iroquois. For example, the form of the headband and cap resemble those of the 19th-century Iroquois man's headdress called a "gostoweh."

This headdress is made of the whole headskin of a deer and is bordered by a band of hide decorated with quillwork. The two curved motifs on the front, finely worked in white quills, may represent the Great Tree of Peace in Iroquois cosmology, while the red wool disk possibly symbolizes the sun.

  • What

    This headdress is made from deer-head skin along with antlers, tanned hide and thongs, porcupine quills, eagle and owl feathers, down, stroud, sinew and red ochre.

  • Where

    This is a chieftain's headdress thought to have been worn in the Eastern Woodlands region.

  • When

    Archaeological evidence from the Eastern Woodlands region suggests that the wearing of horned headdresses as symbols of chiefly power goes back thousands of years.

  • Who

    In the Iroquois tradition, antlered headdresses such as this one are worn by chiefs.