One thing above all stood out in my mind in my visit with Lieutenant Colonel Nelson R. Moon some years ago at his home in Riverside, California, in company with a lady friend of mine. He told us that “if you want information about good hair care, don’t look to any hairdresser for that; instead, look to Native American wisdom of the past to find useful things for the present.” From a cultural perspective, I could see just how true that was. White men who visited Native American tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada in the last couple of centuries had always remarked on just how fond these people, especially the men, were of their hair. In fact, they usually considered their hair to be the most important part of their bodies, and would naturally lavish a lot of attention and care on it.
In 1970 T met an Indian couple named Adolph and Carol Hungry Wolf. At that time they resided near Glacier National Park in the top part of Montana. I never really learned their particular tribal affiliation, but have reason to believe it was either Blackfoot or Crow. They provided me with some interesting information on personal hair care that might prove helpful to some readers of this book. It is passed along in that spirit.
“Combs were not known in the Old Days, but the hair was often brushed,” Adolph told me. “A primitive brush consisted of a handful of flexible twigs, bound together with buckskin. The most common brush among our people then was made by inserting a stick of wood into a porcupine’s tail. Our ancestors also cut off a handful of horse hair from the tail end, wound it tight and then doubled it over to make a soft hair brush. We still like to brush our hair with this.”
His wife Carol, who had remained silent in the background for awhile, then spoke up with these comments. “Both my mother and grandmother would make hair tonics and washes from the different grasses that grew in abundance on the plains or in the meadows around us. Sweet grass and common bear grass were the two most often used. They would be boiled in water, cooled downs and then rubbed into the hair every day. Such grasses leave the hair smelling sweet, almost like clover. In fact, red or white clover tops may also be used for this. They would sometimes mix in cedar leaves for better aroma and medicinal effect. I’ve discovered in using it in my family, that it has kept our hair from falling out.”
Along more disgusting lines, they talked about the use of bear grease, buffalo dung, and deer urine for the hair, that many braves in “the Old Times” were in the habit of using in their hair. “But now we are educated and know better,” Adolph said. We know that such things are not socially acceptable by the Whites. So we rely on plants instead.”
One thing which Mr. Hungry Wolf emphasized, that is worth repeating here, is “to always brush or comb your hair every day,” because that seems to “keep the hair from getting old and gray and falling out.” I think what he meant to say was that as long as your scalp get plenty of exercise every day and blood circulation to it, your chances of going gray or bald will be drastically reduced.