The white feather is a traditional symbol of cowardice in England. It comes from the belief that fighting cocks with white in their tail feathers are poor fighters. Most sources say the tradition white feathers equals cowardice is hundreds of years old. A few sources believe that the tradition of giving white feathers to a coward was invented by novelist A.E.W. Mason in his novel The Four Feathers in 1902.
During World War I in England the Order of the White Feather encouraged young women to give young men white feathers to humiliate them into joining the army.
For Native Americans white feathers have benign meanings. Among the Cherokee, peace envoys would wear robes covered with white feathers.