Porcupine Hair Roach

Black & Purple Roach
Northern Plains
Collected 1881
Ogden B. Read Collection

Crow Roach - ca 1900

Crow Roach
Denver Art Museum

Crow Roach - ca 1900

Crow Roach
Denver Art Museum
Note the orange & pink striped deer hair

Plains Roach - ca 1900

Roach - ca. 1900
Matoska Trading Company Collection

Bottom view of hair-base roach

Bottom view of above roach -  ca. 1900 - Notice how base is made from many rows of tied deer tail.

Roach - Early 20th Century

Roach with beaded
early 20th century
Matoska Trading Company

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Roach - possibly late
19th century
Top & Bottom Views
Most of porcupine guard
hair is gone
Matoska Trading Company Collection

The Porcupine Hair Roach

The porcupine hair roach is a head ornament worn by men. It is typically constructed of porcupine guard hair (not quills) and hair from the tail of the white-tail deer. Some roaches from the southern plains are constructed using black turkey beards. The exact origins of the roach are not known for certain. There is some conjecture that they were originally worn as part of society regalia and may have originated among the Missouri River tribes. However, this is not certain. From drawings by Charles Bird King and George Catlin (among others), we do know that roaches were in common use in the early 19th century and it is likely that they were in use much earlier. The roach worn by Buffalo Bull can be clearly seen in this drawing by George Catlin in 1832:


Buffalo Bull - Catlin Drawing 1832

Buffalo Bull
Grand Pawnee Warrior
Painted by George Catlin, 1832


By the end of the 19th century, the roach was commonly worn by male dancers. If the roach ever was symbolic of a society member, it certainly was no longer at that time.



Lakota Dancers - ca. 1920

Lakota Dancers - ca. 1920 - Rosebud Reservation
The center dancers are wearing roaches.
From the book Women & Warriors of the Plains


Cheyenne Ledger Drawing

Ledger drawing by Making Medicine - 1876
Note the three Cheyennes wearing roaches
From the book Warrior Artists



Today, the roach is worn by most male dancers. There is no society association today, but some dancers do wear certain colors for various personal or religious reasons. Most of the time, the colors are chosen to match the dance clothes.


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Derwin Velarde (Jicarilla Apache)
Men's Traditional Dancer
Notice the porcupine roach he wears
from the book
Powwow - Photographs by Ben Marra
Ben Marra 1996




Last modified on April 29, 2019

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