Traditionally, a girl received her first peaked cap to wear when her menstrual cycle started, and she became a woman. This was an important event, a rite of passage for women. The cap was usually made by a girl's mother, grandmother, or another older female relative. Women treasured these caps and wore them daily all the rest of their lives, into the 1900s. As European wool and linen began to replace leather clothing, these caps were made of wool, usually red or black. They were decorated with ribbon appliqué‚ and beadwork, and sometimes with black ostrich feathers bought from a millinery store.
When George Creed first began tracing these cap designs, he called them "Lean-tos" or "Lodges". By 30 June 1890, however, when he wrote to Col. Garrick Mallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, he had realized his mistake:
"Class A (as I learned very shortly after we secured copies), represents the peculiar head dress still occasionally worn by Micmac females. This should have been plain to us from an examination of picture C20. The very frequent occurrence of this form and the great variety of design or ornamentation shows that much importance is attached to this ...and this is further shown by the manner in which all the Indians speak of it. Have you ever seen these caps, elaborately wrought with beads quills or embroidery on fine broad cloth, velvet, satin, &c., it is to be presumed originally of skin?"
Creed to Mallory. Courtesy of the Selwyn Dewdney Collection, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
If these caps do pre-date the arrival of Europeans, no leather examples have survived.