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Let's talk Roaches

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  • Let's talk Roaches


    Roaches are a main article for all men's powwow dances.


    What region did the roach originate from?

    What tribe(s) originally wore the roach?

    Who was allowed to wear a roach in the 1800's?

    What are different materials roaches are made of?

    Why do some tribes wear one feather and others wear two?

    Why do some grass dancers sometimes wear plumed antennas in their roaches?

    Why did/do some northern traditonal dancers wear retangular porcupine-quilled hairplates on the back of their roaches.

    Why did/do some northern traditional dancers wear shaved feathers blended in with their front porky hair?

    Who started wearing today's eagle tail visors under the roach?
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    How many people can honestly answer every one of those questions?????? (No jokes about depends on who you're talking to, what tribe they are from) Bet there are a few.

    Most roaches seen today are made of porky hair with deer hair on the inside/outside. However roaches are also made of turkey beards, horse hair, fiber optic material (at least Crazy Crow has one for kids made out of this stuff).
    The things you are doing today are the traditions of twenty-five years from now.
    -Daryl Baldwin: Miami


    • #3

      Spotted Eagle:

      I agree. Perhaps no one person can answer all these questions with any depth.

      It really doesn't matter.

      I was just wanting to see some posts on "questions with substance."

      Threads like "who's the best whatever" will get only opinion.

      Perhaps the questions that I posted in this thread (once answered or at least debated) will give people on a little history of why we do things in the powwow arena.


      "It is refreshing to see Indian culture evolve. . . But it is equally as good to look back and see that things were done for a reason." WhoMe 2003.
      Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


      • #4
        lets talk roaches

        I would like to add a few questions if I may. Ok, what do you prefer buying your roach made or making it yourself? Which do you prefer, porky or horse hair. And also German silver, bone, rawhide, or a mocc sole style leather for a roach spreader?

        And I have a tribal question... how far down does the Lakota roach lay?
        Those are my questions.



        • #5
          WhoMe I agree with you 100%. It is nice to see threads with history and also well thought out answers.

          eutrinka, While I have the patience to bead, I'm not sure I have the patience to tie a roach, so I prefer to buy mine. As far as type, my opinion is there is only two choices porky or turkey beard. Personally I don't haven't seen many horse hair roaches that have the right look. As far as spreaders, I've seen some nice ones, so it's a matter of personal preference as well as creativity. Man there are some nice German Silver spreaders out there, but there are some equally kick @zz beaded spreaders. Mine is made of belt leather, which I plan to bead when I get the time.
          The things you are doing today are the traditions of twenty-five years from now.
          -Daryl Baldwin: Miami


          • #6
            I think the only people who could really tell us the true meaning of a roach and all the answers we are looking for have passed on . the easiest person here to get ahold of and tell us is probably powwowbum49 he sure knows his roaches.

            by the way my new spreader is german silver with the holders beaded , best of both worlds:D


            'i believe I can fly'
            Rob Young


            • #7
              Well, since I make them lets see how far I can get...LOL

              Whome's ?'s

              Region...I am glad you put it this way since I have never heard any scholar agree as to what 'tribe' roaches started with but most all agree that they originated in and around the Great Lakes and most feel it was prior to Euro colonization. Though the roaches worn from that time were no where near as big as they are today.

              Allowed...this one is totally dependent on the tribe, society, etc., etc., and will have far too many answers for me to try and go into. It should be left up to folks that are from tribes that used roaches at that time since many tribes did not.

              Made of...well in most cases a roach has at least a couple of rows in it. (except for manilla roaches which suck) the common things used to make roaches are Porcupine Guard hair, Turkey Beard, Horse hair, Deer tail hair, Skunk Tail Hair, Moose Mane Hair...bases can be made of yarn, cotton cable cord or tied rows of deer tail hair. I have heard of folks making roaches of fiber optic fibers but have never used it and have no clue how well it would turn out.

              Feathers 1vs2...Now I have to admit that I have seldom seen Tradish dancers (since this is the tradish forum) wearing only one roach feather (though it is commonly seen among straight dancers). The only tradish dancers I have ever seen wearing only one feather were those that wear a small round roach. I do remember seeing a fella that had 4 feathers in the top of his roach (2 per socket)...never seen it before or since

              Antenna...I have no clue on this one since I do not hail from the tribe much less region where grass dancing started and is still a society dance. I believe we had a thread about this in the Grass Dance forum a while back but not sure if there was much agreement on the subject.

              Bulls tail drops...I do not know if there is society or tribal traditions behind the use of these. If what I do know is correct their use started with the Siouian tribes. I do remember seeing these worn in the hair all by themselves or in conjunction with feathers in historic paintings. Someone once told me they were called wapanaga (doubt that is spelled right and I am not sure I trust the source of this info to be right, so if anyone else can chime in on this I would appreciate being set straight)

              Shaved feathers...I have seen this in other areas as well and by other tribes. Never been told of a tribal significance to the use of these, though I have been asked to make roaches like this before though.

              Visor...I have no clue who started the use of the visors one see's today

              eutrinka's ?'s

              make or buy...As a roach maker I prefer to make and I often have people call me up asking me to finish or put together out right a roach 'kit' they have bought. I will say though it is very hard for the average person to get a hold of long guard hair in the quantities to make a 'big/long' roach. We roach makers go through many pounds of hair a year and we cull out the long hair and save it to use in rather high dollar super long haired roaches. I know WhoMe has one of these rare beasts.

              porky-vs-horse...for gawd sake do not buy a horse hair roach. Porky hair is hollow and this is what allows it to stand up nice and tall, horse hair is not and it is very susceptible to will sag and only works when kept fairly short. I would not even consider using horse hair in place of porky in any roach I sell.

              Spreaders...All work well depending on the outfit it is worn with, but all should be made for the roach after it is put together. The name spreader is a misconception, since they do not actually spread the roach is merely there to help hold the roach to the head and provide a means to hold the feathers in an erect form in the roach. The way a roach opens up and lays is determined by the way the roach is made and what is wrapped on and not by the spreader. When an over sized spreader is shoved down into a roach it only causes premature wear on the hair in the roach and does more harm than good.

              Well, at this point I relinquish the!!!

              "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

              "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda

              My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.


              • #8
                Hmmm..... PWBum rocks.....

                Who was allowed to wear a roach in the 1800's?
                I always heard that outside the Eastern areas (like PWBum discusses) roaches spread out across the plains w/ the Grass Dance/Omaha Dance/Hethushka and that roaches were originally a sign of membership in a Hethushka society..... of course it seems lots of other folks were wearing them too, so I have no clue how to explain that.

                Why do some grass dancers sometimes wear plumed antennas in their roaches?
                Better satellite reception? especially when combined with some really styley wrap-around shades? Seriously, I've seen old pics of roaches w/ the stipped feather w/ plumes on the end, but really no clue the meaning behind it..... maybe it was related to another of WhoMe's questions:
                Why do some tribes wear one feather and others wear two?
                As for one feather - I think that's probably related to Hethushka again. I also heard that among some tribes, you got a feather for your roach on each of your first two war expeditions, often as a wrangler.... I'm not entirely sure I buy that, but it might be worth something (maybe just the cyberspace it's printed on!).

                Who started wearing today's eagle tail visors under the roach?
                I'm about 99.999% sure this started in Oklahoma - and pretty sure it started in north-central Oklahoma..... Pawnees maybe? I'm thinking of guys like Norman NewRider, Pat Moore, etc., but again I'm really not sure..... However, PWBum mentioned that he saw a guy w/ 4 feathers in his roach (2 in each socket), and I know for a fact that Pat Moore has done that.
                Functionless art is simply tolerated vandalism.


                • #9
                  The oldest documented roaches I have heard of were from around 1650. One account from New Netherlands (later New York) noted that Natives used a long deer's tail dyed red for their roaches, which were used in ceremonies and dances. These were believed to have been obtained from the Mohawk.

                  So according to that the basic roach started at least 350 years ago.
                  The things you are doing today are the traditions of twenty-five years from now.
                  -Daryl Baldwin: Miami



                  • #10

                    Just wondering...where did the term come from?

                    Speaking for the Mvskokvlke, it was turkey beards. The base is brain tan or rawhide. The leather disk is round, about 1.5-2" in diameter. The hair is horsehair today, and is normally 4-6" long. No spreader is used. An assortment of feather(s) is worn; eagle, owl, hawk, and turkey, alone and in combination. It just depends.



                    • #11

                      See? This is exactly what I'm talking about!

                      A thread with some good information and history.

                      I am learning so much!

                      Keep the info coming!
                      Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


                      • #12

                        Well I asked my mom about were she thought the term "roach" came from... and she said that is might have originated from the term "roaching the Maine" being a horse lady I asked her how you "roach the Maine"... all you do is shave all of the horses Maine off with electric or hand clippers (best to do it with electric).

                        I hope this helps,


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by SPAMDANCER
                          by the way my new spreader is german silver with the holders beaded , best of both worlds:D

                          My spreader is German Silver, too, and I was wondering what would be the best way to bead the sockets and to attach a beaded drop to the roach.

                          PS Great info on this post!
                          Point to the part of you that's Indian... "The heart knows what it is." I may look like I'm white, but my heart knows I'm Native.


                          • #14

                            Man this is alright. Do the shoulder feathers,epaulets come from the place??? I've always heard of those items being "Southern" but never heard anything definite. I think the spelling is Wapegneka-- I think,,, keep on with the good posts this is fun


                            • #15
                              roach spreaders

                              I have heard about izzy's (I think it’s spelled izzy, or is it izzi) roach spreaders. I wanted to know if he had a web site address or a catalog or any way I could contact him?


                              P.s. I agree that this thread is great!! I’m learning soo much
                              Last edited by eutrinka; 12-22-2003, 11:43 PM.


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