Around the world, the headdress has become a symbol of Native American ceremonies. Headdresses are worn by chiefs, warriors, and other prominent tribe members at various events such as powwows and weddings. However, not every tribe uses those same headdresses seen on TV. There are hundreds of Native tribes, and no two are exactly the same. An Alaskan tribe, the Athabascans, also wear intricate necklaces in place of a headdress.
Why necklaces? The reason is purely practical. It’s cold in Alaska, so people are usually wearing winter hats. Traditionally indigenous Alaskan people wore fur hats, so they couldn’t wear a headdress outdoors. To clarify, on special occasions Athabascan Chiefs do wear headdresses of various shapes and styles. The more common design is a piece of leather or some other material wrapped around the head in the shape of a band with eagle, swan or some other feathers sticking straight up from the band.
This particular shell necklace is worn by the chief of the Athabascan tribe. Additionally, the chief's wife, children and adopted children have been seen wearing these necklaces. They have significant meaning and value within the tribe. Each region of the Athabascan people of Alaska has their own protocols and potlach ceremonies for giving and receiving these necklaces. One common theme is they are not decorative. So, one is to not create them with the shells in this shape without proper permission and blessings. One of the founders of Feather Bear Forever is from this tribe, so this t-shirt design has a special place in our hearts. The dentalium shells used in the Athabascan chief’s necklace were used as a valuable currency in the past.
The eagle is also an important symbol in many Native American cultures. It is considered the animal that is closest to the creator. The eagle symbolizes strength, peace, prestige, balance, and focus.
This t-shirt design combines these two prominent elements from different Native American tribes. This meshing of two cultural elements represents the deep respect that each tribe has for one another and the importance of celebrating their cultural similarities and differences.
• 100% cotton*
• Pre-shrunk fabric
• Relaxed fit for extra comfort
*Heather color is 52% Airlume combed and ring-spun cotton 48% poly