Hippies Had Nothing on This

Liberty and a Native American, Civil War-era pictoral envelope, courtesy Library of Congress

Liberty and a Native American, Civil War-era pictorial envelope, courtesy Library of Congress

Apparently, long hair has been an issue with authorities for quite some time. In 1902, the Office of Indian Affairs wanted to initiate a program that cut off rations to reservation Indians and paid them wages instead. W.A. Jones, commissioner of Indian Affairs, decided that for their labor to be effective, Indians needed to cut their hair. He issued a “short-hair order” that caused a great deal of resentment.

The order stated that the “wearing of short hair…will certainly hasten their [Indians] progress toward civilization.” The order suggested withholding employment until men complied. It also suggested throwing uncooperative men “in the guardhouse at hard labor,” to cure their stubbornness.

Unfortunately for the Indian Office, newspapers got hold of the document and published its contents. The public discussed those contents at length, sometimes with outrage, and the office was embarrassed by all the negative publicity. However, it continued to defend its position.

Specific records about the result of this order don’t seem to exist, but it met with approval within the Indian Office. It did give some leeway to older Indians, but expected the young males to follow the order.

Dr. Carlos Montazuma, Apache (1880-1900?), courtesy Library of Congress

Dr. Carlos Montazuma, Apache (1880-1900?), courtesy Library of Congress

Native American Children (1880-1910?), courtesy Library of Congress

Native American Children (1880-1910?), courtesy Library of Congress

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