Friday, December 6, 2019

Logo-like pictorial Native American haircuts

Osage clan-related haircuts
Above These diagrams are not as strange as they might appear. They are an ethnologist's renderings of the purposeful hair designs of Native American Osage boys. See examples below as well. Originated by Francis La Flesche (1857-1932), who was himself a Native American, they were published in a US Government report, titled "The Osage Tribe: Child Naming Rite" in 1928. I first saw them in the early 1970's when they were reproduced in Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (University of Chicago Press, 1968), a book that was greatly important to me at a time when I was trying to grasp the process of categorizing.

These unusual haircuts are like pictorial logos. Each haircut represents a different clan, which is in turn connected with a particular animal (usually). In the examples shown above, they represent (as numbered) (1) Head and tail of elk. (2) Head, tail, and horns of buffalo. (3) Horns of buffalo. (4) Buffalo's back as seen from above. (5) Head of bear. (6) Head, tail, and body of small birds.

In the second set of examples, the patterns are indicative of: (7) Turtle's shell, with head, feet, and tail of the animal. (8) Head, wings, and tail of the eagle. (9) Four points of the compass. (10) Shaggy side of the wolf. (11) Horns and tail of the buffalo. (12) Head and tail of the deer. (13) Head, tails, and knobs of growing horns on the buffalo calf. (14) Reptile teeth.