Skip Navigation

Split Horn Headdress

Arts of the Americas

Shunkahmolah, a leader of the Black Bear clan priesthood, showed this headdress to the ethnologist Francis La Flesche and Brooklyn Museum curator Stewart Culin when they visited him in 1911. According to Osage consultants, the headdress was used in ritual preparations for the hunt.

The Osage cosmos is composed of an invisible creative force, called Wakonta, that is ever-changing within an ordered cosmos constructed with four major, interwoven divisions: sky, earth, day, and night. The sky is associated with north, the left side, and the male gender. Earth is allied with the south, the right side, and the female gender. Day is linked to the east, the sun, life, birth, the male gender, and the color red. Night is connected to the west, the moon, destruction, the female gender, and the color black. Regalia worn by the Osage people often symbolically reflect the complex elements of their cosmos.

The kingfisher attached to the back of the headdress symbolically unites the Osage Sky and Earth people, since the bird flies in the sky and hunts in the water. The bird also unites the male (sky) and female (earth) forming the left and right side of the Osage universe. The northern harrier and red-tailed hawk feathers attached to the trailer are symbolic of the sun or life and give the hunter the power to move quickly and effectively.
MEDIUM Horn, horse hair, rooster feathers, hawk birdskin, hide, glass beads, fur, silk, wool, cotton, sinew
DATES late19th-early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 49 x 9 in. (124.5 x 22.9 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1911, Museum Collection Fund
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
CAPTION Osage. Split Horn Headdress, late19th-early 20th century. Horn, horse hair, rooster feathers, hawk birdskin, hide, glass beads, fur, silk, wool, cotton, sinew, 49 x 9 in. (124.5 x 22.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1911, Museum Collection Fund, 11.694.9050. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 11.694.9050.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 11.694.9050.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The front of the headdress has a beaded headband in blue and white. From under the headband, trailing down the back is dyed red horse hair. Two long horns (beef horns) are on either side. A roach of bird skin and feathers is fastened to center of horsehair trailer. Four bands of dyed feathers are attached to a red wool trailer faced with cotton fabric that hangs down the back of the headdress. According to Sean Standing Bear 10/24/2000) the small concentric beaded circles on either side of the headdress are 'eyeballs.'
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.