Why Don’t Native Americans Have Facial Hair?

The U.S. Army/CC-BY 2.0

Although most Native American men do not sport a mustache or a full beard, this does not mean that they are unable to grow facial hair. Most Native American men prefer to keep their faces clean shaven, although men from several tribes in, for example, the Northwest, do wear mustaches and even full beards.

The inability to grow facial hair is one of the most common misconceptions about Native Americans. It is also mistakenly thought that Native Americans tore out their beards regularly until the hair would no longer grow. This Native American stereotype is fueled by the numerous novels written by a German teacher named Karl May who, interestingly enough, never saw a Native American in his entire life.

During the Long Walk era, many Navajo leaders sported mustaches. Bearded Native Americans have also been documented in the past. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition met a subdivision of the Paiute Native American Indians from Utah who sported full beards.

It is also speculated that this subdivision of the Paiute tribe gave rise to rumors during that time that there had been Spaniards exploring the area. The sight of the Paiutes made some members of the Dominguez-Escalante expedition believe that they were meeting Jesuit priests because of the beards worn by the Native Americans.