Circular on Long Hair

Circular Long Hair Prohibited

January 13, 1902.
To, Superintendants:

This Office desires to call your attention to a few customs among the
Indians which, it is believed, should be modified or discontinued.

The wearing of long hair by the male population of your agency is not in
keeping with the advancement they are making, or will soon be expected to
make, in civilization. The wearing of short hair by the males will be a
great step in advance and will certainly hasten their progress towards
civilization. The returned male student far too frequently goes back to
the reservation and falls into the old custom of letting their hair grow
long. He also paints profusely and adopts all the old habits and customs
which his education in our industrial schools has tried to eradicate. The
fault does not like with the schools as with conditions found on the
reservations. These conditions are very often due to the policy of the
Government toward the Indian and are often perpetuated by the
superintendent’s not caring to take the initiative in fastening any new
policy on his administration of the affairs of the agency.

On many of the reservations the Indians of both cheeks paint, claiming
that it keeps the skin warm in winter and cool in summer; but instead,
this paint melts when the Indian perspires and runs down into the eyes.
The use of this paint leads to many diseases of the eyes. The Persons who
have given considerable though and investigation to the subject are
satisfied that this custom causes the majority of the cases of blindness
among the Indians of the United States.

You are therefore directed to induce your male Indians to cut their hair,
and both sexes to stop painting . With some of the Indians this will be an
east matter; with others it will require considerable tact and
perseverance on the part of yourself and your employees to successfully
carry out these instructions . With your Indian employees and those
Indians who draw rations and supplies it will be an east matter as a
non-compliance with this order may be induced to comply with the order
voluntarily, especially the returned students. The returned students who
do not comply voluntarily should be dealt with summarily. Employment,
supplies, etc., should be withdrawn until they do comply and if they
become obstreperous about the matter a short confinement in the guardhouse
at hard labor, with shorn locks, should furnish cure. Certainly all the
young men should wear short hair, and it is believed that by tact,
perseverance, firmness, and withdrawal of supplies the superintendents
can induce all to comply with this order.

The wearing of citizens clothing, instead of Indian costume and blanket,
should be encouraged.

Indian dances and so-called Indian feasts should be prohibited. In many
cases these dances and feasts are simply subterfuges to cover degrading
acts and to disguise immoral purposes. You are directed to use your best
efforts in the suppression if these evils.

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