Porcupine Roach

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I looked up roach on the various search engines and all I got was Papa Roach, Roach clothing, and cockroaches. Not a peep about porcupine hair roaches not even on Wikipedia. That’s awful.

Here’s the history of the porcupine roach which is a Native American headdress made out of porcupine guard hair and deer hair. Sometimes roaches are made out of skunk hair (instead of deer hair) and I’ve heard the very early ones were made out of turkey beard hair.

Porcupine roaches are what essentially every modern Native American pow wow dancer wears on their head, except for the women and not all Southern Straight dancers (who wear a hat made out of otter fur).

Most roaches are between 15″ and 24″ long, mine is 24″. It’s broken down like this, an inside layer of deer hair, a main row of porcupine hair, another row of porcupine hair in the front, and then a layer of deer hair on the outside. Traditional deer hair colors are red all around or white all around but modern roaches have some bits of color on them.

Roaches cost about $300-$500 or $75+ for a roach kit. I’ve made two roaches, one I still have and one that was 15″ that I sold a long time ago. They take forever to make. The hardest part is sorting the hair. You have to sort the hair in .5″ groupings from 5″ all the way to 11″ – that by itself could take you a week to do. Probably takes a month to build out a roach.

To put on a roach the right way, you have to have long hair. You take a braid of your hair, put it through the hole in the roach, and secure the roach down with your hair and a roach pin. I’m talking about a different roach pin…I don’t have long hair so I use leather laces.

The finishing touch to the roach is a couple of eagle feathers secured via a spreader. The spreader is supposed to spread the roach hairs so that it fans out and looks cool, versus sticking straight up and looking not so cool.

So that’s a porcupine roach.

57 thoughts on “Porcupine Roach”

  1. Actually the spreader is not there to spread the roach out but is a decorative ornament that finishes the roach, to say that it is not cool for the hair to be sticking straight up is ignorant, as some dancers prefer wearing it this way for traditional reasons. You need to do more reaseach.

  2. Just for your information the thing about a roach spreader is that you need to make sure it is sized for your roach otherwise it can damage (wear out) the hair in your roach. Silver spreaders are nice looking but you really need to have your roach with you if you are buying one already made to make sure it fits your roach properly before you buy it. What I mean by a proper fit is that it should just meet the inside row of hair or be slightly small than it is. A roach, if made properly, will lay correctly without a spreader in it (i.e., spread wide open like those Crow boys like or standing straight up like many straight dancers want). The spreader really is not there to position the hair, but rather made to keep the base from popping back on itself like it does on the roach stick and it also is there to hold the roach feathers. If a spreader is too big it will wear again the hair causing a loss of hair in the crown area of the roach. The other way it causes hair loss is that when adjusting the position of a roach on ones head most people pinch the sides of the roach at the base to get a good hold on it. This pinches the hair between your fingers and the spreader crimping or even breaking the hollow porky and deerhair at the same time. After this happens it is just a matter of time before the hair that was crimped will fall out.

  3. I don’t need to do more research. I know some dancers like their roach standing straight up. I like the spread look better, it’s just a matter of personal preference.

    And you’re absolutely right about the spreader. You don’t want the spreader to wear down or crimp the porky hairs. The deer hair should be more forgiving.

  4. I have a hand made roach (porcupine quill and white tail deer hair) from the mid to late seventies just sitting around. I was wondering if you could point me in the direction to where I could sell it? I was involved in traditional native American dance in the seventies and have had it since then. I have inspected it closely and it shows very little to minimal use. I bought it first hand used it 20 or so times and have had it packed away (inside my house) for the last 30 years. I would like someone who could utilize it, to do so. I don’t do e-bay, pay pal or any other of the computer web sites. Thank you in advance for your attention in this matter,
    Douglas Croom

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