Roach Spreaders – History
Native American men in North America wear one traditional style of headdress called a ‘Roach’. Natives have made Roaches from Whitetail Deer hair, Moose hair, Turkey Beards, Porcupine Hair, Horsehair or a combination of these. Native Americans have worn some form of Roach headdresses starting before the contact period. Early colonial writings mention these headdresses several times. These early writers sometimes referred to roaches as ‘crowns’ or ‘coronets’.
When wearing a roach, men can also wear a Roach Spreader inside to spread the hair. This way they can achieve a balanced shape for the roach. In order to facilitate wearing a roach, Native American men braid one section of their hair.
When they wear a roach, they draw the braid through holes in both the roach and the spreader. Then they pass a wood or bone ‘pin’ through the braid to keep the roach and spreader in place. Some men remove most of the hair from their heads, but still keep a patch that grows long. They braid this section as use it as described to keep their roach and spreader on securely.
History of Roach Spreaders
Historically, Native Americans created Roach Spreaders with natural materials. They carved Bone or Antler into flat bases. They may include a bone ‘socket’ to hold an eagle feather. In addition to shaping the Roach Spreader to the required size, Native Americans also decorated them with etchings or carvings. Artistic renderings of Native Americans by Europeans during the colonial period that show feathers coming out of a roach are likely indications of an unseen roach spreader. In the photo on the left, you can see a basic Roach Spreader with a socket that Chris made from bone.
Contemporary Roach Spreaders
Today, Roach Spreaders are often made with metal, like ‘German Silver’. Artisans stamp or punch designs into these. Artists also make Roach Spreaders from Rawhide, Antler, and Bone . Sometimes they cover the Spreaders with Beadwork or attach items that hang off of the back. If a man does not have a scalp lock for the pin, Leather Lacing ties are attached to the sides of the Spreader and tied around the man’s head.
You can find Roach Spreader designs that correspond with particular Native American Dances. Thus, Fancy Dancers can wear Rocker Style Spreaders that allow the feathers to move. Grass Dancers can wear a spreader that has two long pins at the front to hold their feathers. Chicken Dancers use a spreader that has two sockets at the front, rather than one behind the other.
At The Wandering Bull, we offer a selection of contemporary German Silver Roach Spreaders for your Native American Regalia. See all of our Roach Spreaders! You may also like the products listed below.