~Symbolizes Abundance, Stability, Positive Energy, Hope, Happiness and Peace~
Zuni believe that the Sun symbolizes abundance, continuity, stability, positive energy, hope, happiness and peace. The Zuni tribe associates it with warmth which made life and growth possible and believes it brings playfulness and joy to children along with good fortune and prosperity to families. Praying to the Sun was a critical part of Zuni culture.
~Symbolizes an abundance and manifestation~
To Native Americans, the Bison or American Buffalo was a symbol of sacred life and abundance. The American Buffalo or Bison is a symbol of abundance and manifestation. The lesson learned by the Lakota is that one does not have to struggle to survive. This is especially true if the right action is joined by the right prayer. By learning to appropriately unite the mundane with the divine, all that will be needed will be provided.
~Symbolizes Protection, Courage, Physical Strength and Leadership~
Native American Indians are deeply spiritual people and they communicate their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Bear Symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. Animals were drawn as symbols which were taken as spiritual guides and stood for the qualities and traits of the animal that the symbol represented. The Bear symbol was important as it represented a protector and symbolized courage, physical strength and leadership. Bears are strong, agile, and quick. The black bear and the Grizzly were native to North America. The meaning of the Bear Symbol was to signify a good omen and convey authority. The bear was a very important animal symbol. Some tribe would also have two warriors known as the Grizzly Bears. These warriors would be the first to charge at the enemies in battle. Native American bird and animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide.
Some Indians believed that it was possible to draw power from a bear by dreaming of one, by killing and eating part of one or by even touching a bear. These actions made a warrior invincible. Because of the Indians' beliefs that the bear had spiritual power, wearing a bear claw necklace meant protection and good health to the Indian wearing it. The Abenaki tribe believe that the stars of the Big Dipper are the Great Bear (Kchi-awasos). According to Abenaki mythology the Great Bear is chased every night by three hunters. The Great Bear is killed every fall and his blood drips to earth turning the leaves brown but he is reborn every spring.
Many Native American cultures feature Skinwalkers or a similar concept in which a shaman or Medicine Man may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form such as a bear.
~Signifies Life Force and Strength of a Warriors Heart~
This arrow is called the lifeline or heart line. The heartline begins at the mouth where breath gives life and points to the soul, or spirit, where faith and inner strength preside. The following symbol depicts the heartline through the image of a bear. The heartline is an arrow going from its head to the heart and shows the Indian warrior's heart is strong like the bears. Similar images can be found depicting the heartline in other animals.
~Symbolizes our journey through life~
According to O'odham oral history, the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices individuals make in the journey through life. In the middle of the "maze," a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, the individual has a final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon choices made and the path taken, before the Sun God greets us, blesses us and passes us into the next world.
The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life.
The Medicine Wheel can take many different forms. It can be an artwork such as artifact or painting, or it can be a physical construction on the land. Hundreds or even thousands of Medicine Wheels have been built on Native lands in North America over the last several centuries.
Meanings of the Four Directions
Different tribes interpret the Medicine Wheel differently. Each of the Four Directions (East, South, West, and North) is typically represented by a distinctive color, such as black, red, yellow, and white, which for some stands for the human races. The Directions can also represent:
Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death
Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall
Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical
Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth
Animals: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and many others
Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar
~Symbolizes Direction, Protection, Strength and Leadership~
The meaning of the Wolf symbol is to symbolize direction and leadership and the wolf symbol also embodied both protection and destruction. The Wolf symbol signified strength, endurance, Instinct linked with intelligence, family values and believed to give guidance in dreams and meditation. Many American Indians considered themselves descended from wolves, and thus worshiped the wolf as both a god and an ancestor. According to the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first creature to experience death. Some tribes believed that the timber wolves, howling at the moon, were spiritual beings that could speak to the gods and impart magical powers.
~ Symbolizes Invincibility~
Dakota and Lakota decoration often use the symbol of spider or spider’s web. It is believed that any warrior adorned with spider symbol is invincible to arrows and bullets. Just as the arrow or bullet can pass through a spider’s web, leaving it relatively intact, it was believed that the projectile would pass through the brave warrior and leave him unharmed. Also, since the spider’s web is difficult to see unless it is wet, the wearer of spider symbol is given a type of invisibility.
In Lakota mythology, spider is both feared and revered. On one side – fear – the trickster is transformed from one-time god of wisdom. On the other side – reverence – Iktomi is credited with giving all creatures their names, shapes, personality and identity. Since he ran out of names before naming himself, he ended up as spider.
For some, spider’s legs represent the four winds of change and the four directions on the medicine wheel. Other tribes credit the gift of fire to spider.
~ Symbolizes fertility, healing and re-birth~
The Snake symbol has different meanings in many Native American tribes. In the Pueblo tribe snakes are symbolic of fertility, in the Ojibwa culture the snake symbolizes healing and due to its ability to shed its skin other traditions associate the snake with re-birth. All of these symbolize the snake as a benign creature but many ancient cultures believe that the snake represents the Underworld and is strongly associated with serpent, which is basically a large snake, although usually depicted as a monster.
In Lakota Sioux and Blackfoot mythology, Unhcegila is a snake or serpent-like monster that was responsible for many unexplained disappearances and deaths. She could swallow a human in one piece or squash him with her weight. Uncegila was a massive reptile that crawl very fast underground and moved even faster on the land. The touch of Unhcegila slime made flesh rot away and caused the ground she passed to become infertile.
Snake Myth and Legend: The Avanyu symbol is one of the many snake-like deities that figure in the mythology of some Native American tribes, notably the Pueblo. The Avanyu symbol represented the storm bringer and was connected with lightning, thunderstorms and the guardian of water.
There is a legend that in the beginning of the world winged snakes or serpents reigned upon the earth and snake symbols depict this event. There is a symbolic relationship between the sun and the snake because life remains in the snake, until sunset even though the snake might be cut into a dozen parts. The Hopi Indians consider the snake to be in close communication with the Earth Spirit. Therefore, at the time of their annual snake dance they send their prayers to the Earth Spirit by first specially sanctifying large numbers of snakes and then liberating them to return to the earth with the prayers of the tribe.
~Symbolizes Good Omen and Authority~
The Bear symbol was important as it represented a protector and symbolized authority, physical strength and leadership. The tracks of a predator, such as a bear track, are used to indicate a direction and are also symbols of leadership. The meaning of the Bear Track symbol was to signify a good omen and convey authority. Native American bird and animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide.
~Symbolizes Bringers of Messages and Symbols of Change~
Bird symbols are very special to the Native Americans, their ability to soar above the clouds, perhaps to the heavens, and their sense of freedom inspired many. The many birds of North America are featured as bird symbols, many having different meanings to different tribes. However, because of their amazing power of flight, many are revered as bringers of messages and symbols of change. They include song birds, water birds and birds of prey. Birds often symbolized light-hearted freedom and the Feathers have many spiritual & ritual uses.
Turkeys play a variety of roles in the folklore of different Native American tribes. In some legends, Turkey is portrayed as a wily, overly-proud trickster character. In others, he is shy and elusive. In parts of Mexico and the American Southwest, turkeys were domesticated and kept as food animals by some tribes, and their role in stories from these tribes is similar to chicken stories from Europe, with the birds mimicking the concerns and activities of human farmers. The Akimel O'odham (Pima) people consider the turkey a rain spirit, and have folk beliefs about turkeys being able to predict the weather.
Numerous Native American Indian legends also deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navajo tribe believe that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water. This why the feathers of the turkey have no color - it was all washed out.
The meaning of the Crow symbol signified wisdom and some tribes believed that the Crow had the power to talk and was therefore considered to be one of the wisest of birds.
The Native Americans consider the bald eagle and the golden eagle to be sacred. Bird symbols depicting these birds of prey were common in many tribes. The meaning of the Eagle symbol was to signify courage, wisdom and strength and its purpose was as the messenger to the Creator and as such was revered amongst the Bird Symbols.
The eagle was believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit in the Spirit World and also had a special connection with visions. Eagle feathers were highly significant to the Native American Indians and the bones of eagles were used to make the whistles and flutes used at religious ceremonies and rituals. It was a custom to hold an eagle feather aloft when saying a prayer and during special council meetings eagle feathers were held as an assurance that the person was telling the truth. Eagle feathers also held a connection to the Great spirit. The eagle had the ability to live in the realm of spirit, and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of Earth. The eagle is therefore often connected with balance. Eagle Myth: The Abenaki solar deity 'Kisosen' meaning "Sun-Bringer" was symbolized as an eagle whose wings opened to create the day and whose wings closed to create the night.
The Hawk symbol is closely associated with forces such as rain, wind, thunder, and lightning and sometimes referred to as a 'thunderer', as do many of the bird symbols. The hawk is also believed to continuously fly fight, protecting people from the evil spirits of the air.
The hummingbird generally symbolizes joy and playfulness, as well as adaptability. Additional symbolic meanings are:
Lightness of being, enjoyment of life
Being more present
Bringing playfulness and joy in your life
Lifting up negativity
Swiftness, ability to respond quickly
Resiliency, being able to travel great distances tirelessly
Owls were believed to be messengers from beyond the grave and Owl symbols signified warnings to people who had broken tribal taboos - these bird symbols signified a bad omen.
The Raven symbol signifies that danger has passed and that good luck would follow.
The Water Bird is a symbol of the renewal of life, rainy seasons, rivers, distant travel, distant vision & wisdom. It is often also referred to as the Peyote Bird because the Water Bird plays a significant part in the Native American Indian Church Peyote meetings and, in fact, since the early 1900’s has been the symbol of the NAC.
The Peyote/Water Bird is not a Southwest tradition, but one of the Plains Indians. The Peyote Bird is connected with lightning, thunder and visions. Those who dream of the thunder beings will become Heyokas, those who do things backwards, upside down, or opposite. This is a Lakota way of being. It is part of the medicine of the Heyoka to remind us that we should not take ourselves too seriously – that’s why Heyoka is often translated as the “sacred clown”.
A hogan (/ˈhoʊɡɑːn/ or /ˈhoʊɡən/; from Navajo hooghan [hoːɣan]) is the primary, traditional dwelling of the Navajo people. Other traditional structures include the summer shelter, the underground home, and the sweat house. A hogan can be round, cone-shaped, multi-sided, or square; with or without internal posts; timber or stone walls and packed with earth in varying amounts or a bark roof for a summer house,with the door facing east to welcome the rising sun for wealth and good fortune.
~Symbolized as the most iconic and powerful of all birds~
Bird symbols, myths and legends: The Thunderbird symbol is one of the most iconic Indian signs. The name of the Thunderbird name originates from the belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind and the sound was viewed by some tribes as an omen of war. The Native Americans believed that the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes.
The meaning of the Thunderbird as a Native American symbol varies according to the tribe. The Thunderbird symbol is viewed by the sacred eye of the beholder: The prime people of North America who held a vision of glory and power concerning this Spirit Bird.
Described as a supernatural being, the enormous bird was a symbol of power and strength that protected humans from evil spirits. It was called the Thunderbird because the flapping of its powerful wings sounded like thunder, and lightning would shoot out of its eyes. The Thunderbirds brought rain and storms, which could be good or bad. Good – when the rain was needed or bad when the rain came with destructive strong winds, floods, and fires caused by lightning.
~ Spiritual Vision ~
Meaning of the Eye of a Medicine Man Symbol
Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Eye of a Medicine Man symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. The meaning of the Eye of a Medicine Man symbol is a very powerful symbol. A Medicine Man, or Shaman, was believed to have magical powers of Spiritual Healing and of seeing into the future. The outer lines of the symbol represent the four corners of the Universe - North, South, East and West of the physical world. The inner lines represent the Spirit world, which the Medicine Man had knowledge of. The center circle represents the eye of the Medicine Man and his spiritual vision.
~Symbolized freedom and direction~
Bird tracks symbolizes light-hearted freedom. The tracks of any animal or bird were used to indicate a direction.
~Symbolized carriers of prayers and messages to the Great Spirit~
Native Americans believed prayers and messages were carried to the Great Spirit on the wings of eagles and other fine birds.
Prayer feathers, either single or bundled are used by an individual to offer a prayer to the Great Spirit. The feathers carry your words, thoughts and feelings to the Great Spirit. Each time you look at your prayer feather, your prayers are again sent in your behalf to the Great Spirit in the Heavens.
Prayer feathers may be used for smudging or cleansing with smoke. The smoke is fanned in the 6 directions East, West, North, South, Earth and Sky cleansing an object, person or thought to the Great Spirit. Sage, cedar, sweet grass, even incense can be used for smudging.
Some personal rituals include singing while praying. It is believed singing is one way to speak with the grandfathers as well as the Great Spirit.
WIPACI (Thank you) Moonwalker
The symbolic meaning of different feathers and the purpose that they were used for varied from tribe to tribe, however, in all tribes certain feathers were revered. The meaning of the feathers symbol signified honor & connected the user with the Creator. Decorated feathers were sometimes attached to sacred tobacco pipes during important ceremonies and used as ‘smudge’ feathers, used to direct the purifying smoke of burning tobacco, cedar, sageor sweet grass in Smudging Rituals.
The feathers of the Red-tailed Hawk and the eagle are considered sacred to many Native Americans and are sometimes used in religious ceremonies and rituals. The feathers of brightly colored birds such as blue jays and cardinals were used for their medicine by spiritual leaders. The feathers of birds were highly esteemed for adornment and symbols of status. However, owl feathers symbolized death or prophesy.
Numerous Native American Indian legends deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navajo tribe believe that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water. This why the feathers of the wild turkey have no color - it was all washed out.
~Symbolizes Transformation, Beauty and Messenger~
The meaning of the Butterfly symbol signifies transformation as the ugly caterpillar changes into the beautiful butterfly. The butterfly is also believed to be a messenger from the spirit world. The message the butterfly brings depends their color. A black butterfly indicates bad news or illness, yellow brings hope and guidance, brown signifies important news, red signifies an important event and white signifies good luck. A butterfly who lands on your shoulder brings you comfort. According to Native American legends and myths of some tribes the Butterfly played a part in their Creation myth. According to Native American legends and myths of the Pueblo tribes of southeastern Arizona and northwest Mexico the Butterfly played a part in their Creation myth. The Creator took the most beautiful colors of all living things and placed them into a magical bag. He have the magic bag to the children and when it was opened colored butterflies flew out singing. The children were enchanted by the butterflies but the song birds were so jealous that the Creator took away the ability to sing from the butterfly.
To tribes such as the Blackfoot, the butterfly symbol is associated with sleep and dreams. They believe that dreams are brought to us in sleep by a butterfly. Women embroider the sign of a butterfly on a small piece of buckskin and tie it to a baby’s hair or on the baby's clothes to encourage the child to go to sleep.
~Symbolizes Warmth, Protection and Endurance~
The KiMo was designed and built in 1927 using the style and designs that were very common to several Native American cultures in the American southwest at that time.
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the design elements of the KiMo Theatre are preserved for their original cultural significance.
Although today the swastika can evoke negative emotions, the KiMo invites visitors to remember that the original meaning of this ancient sacred symbol is one of life and prosperity.
Information about the Swastika Symbol
From Collector's Guide:
"One of the oldest symbols made by humans, the swastika dates back some 6,000 years to rock and cave paintings. Scholars generally agree it originated in India. With the emergence of the Sanskrit language came the term 'swastika', a combination of 'su', or good, and 'asti', to be; in other words, well-being."
"The swastika was a widely used Native American symbol. It was used by many southwestern tribes, most notably the Navajo. Among different tribes the swastika carried various meanings. To the Hopi it represented the wandering Hopi clans; to the Navajo it represented a whirling log ( tsil no'oli' ), a sacred image representing a legend that was used in healing rituals.
"The history of the swastika goes back to the origins of the Eurasian Continent. The swastika is an important symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, among others, and was also used in Native American and Jewish faiths prior to World War II. By the early twentieth century it was regarded worldwide as symbol of good luck and auspiciousness."
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A list of all the native American symbols.
Arrows symbolize protection and defense. An arrow facing to the left is meant to ward off evil. Meanwhile, an arrow facing to the right is meant as protection and an arrow facing down means peace.
An arrowhead is a sharpened tip that can be added to an arrow. They are made of stone and can penetrate the skin. Arrowheads symbolize alertness.
Bear & Bearprints
Animals act as spiritual guides because they have traits admired by humans. That is why bears symbolize courage and physical strength. It is a good omen that conveys authority. Meanwhile, bear prints represent leadership.
Bird & Birdprints
Birds symbolize light-hearted freedom. The tracks are meant to indicate a specific direction.
Brothers symbolize two people who are bound together and have shared a journey through life. The line connecting their feet represents their equality.
Butterflies symbolize transformation. However, the color of the butterfly provides further information. A black butterfly signifies bad news or illness, yellow signifies hope and guidance, brown signifies important news, red signifies an important event, and white signifies good luck.
Cacti symbolize warmth, protection, and endurance. It is a symbol of maternal love because it can endure and thrive in harsh conditions, just like a mother’s unconditional love. However a cactus could also, more literally, signify the desert.
Camp is meant to indicate an Indian village consisting of tepees. These teepees were constructed from wooden poles and animal hide. They could be set up quickly and dismantled quickly, making it easy for the Native Americans to travel.
Camp fires are meant to indicate a temporary overnight stop.
The rain, lightening, and clouds in this image symbolize change, renewal, and fertility. The lightening symbol is closely associated to the Thunderbird, which is a powerful spirit.
Coyotes are a holy creature. However, they symbolize a trickster deity. This spirit is mischievous, selfish, deceitful, and greedy.
Crosses symbolize the Earth’s forces, their origin, and the manner in which they work.
Crows are a symbol of wisdom because they are one of the smartest birds in existence. Some believed that the animal even had the ability to speak.
The dancer indicates that a celebration or ritual dance has taken place. Those ceremonies are an important part of the Native American culture.
Days & Nights
These markings symbolize the passage of time. Since the Native Americans did not have any clocks, they would have to tell time based on the positioning of the sun.
When symbols appear upside down, it symbolizes death. Therefore, this image would indicate the death of a man and a woman.
Deer & Deerprints
Deer symbolize gentleness, safety, prosperity, and shelter. Their tracks can be used as a tool to indicate where food has been found. The direction they are facing indicates the direction of the deer.
Dragonflies symbolize happiness, speed, and purity. This is because dragonflies live in water for the first year of their lives as nymphs and then metamorphose into dragonflies.
Drums were an important part of ceremonies. They were meant as a way to communicate with the Great Spirit.
Eagle & Eagle Feathers
Eagles are a sacred bird. They are a symbol of courage, wisdom, and strength. Their feathers were used during prayer and during special council meetings where they were held as an assurance that the person was telling the truth.
This symbol was meant to indicate that an area had been set aside for a ceremonial dance or ritual.
The circle surrounding the family represents family ties, closeness, and protection. The circle has no starting point or ending point of separation, which means it cannot be broken.
The Kokopelli fertility symbol depicts him hunchbacked, dancing, and playing the flute. In a legend told by Hopi Native Indians, Kokopelli carried unborn children in the sack on his back and distributed them to women.
Fire represents cleansing and renewal because out of the ashes of fire, there is new growth. Fire was used during ceremonies to cleanse sacred items such as drums, shakers, and pipes.
The Four Stages Of Man
This symbolizes the milestones in a person’s life. Their birth and infancy, their youth and adolescence, their maturity in middle age, and their wisdom in their old age.
This symbol represents preservation and survival because The Gila Monster is believed to be able to go a year or more without food or water.
The Great Spirit
The Great Spirit was the principal deity in the religion of many Native American people. The symbol represents the eye of the higher power watching over humankind.
Hand Or Handprint
A hand represents success in hand to hand combat. It can also symbolize human life in general.
This symbol represents balance because Native Americans believed in striking balance, peace, and harmony among all humans, animals, and plant life.
This symbol represents the life force of an animal. When it reaches from the head to the heart of a bear, it symbolizes a warrior having a heart as strong as a bear.
This symbol was meant to represent the return of a warrior. Ceremonies and homecoming dances were performed whenever warriors returned home alive.
Hoof prints represented the number of horses that were taken on a raid. It was a way of conveying important information to fellow tribe members.
This symbol of an eight pointed star represents the four cardinal points of north, south, east and west and their connection to the outermost points on the horizon where the sun passes through the year. It represents wishing and hoping.
This picture of a horse was meant to signify a journey back home.
A lake symbol was drawn to signify the presence of a body of water. It was meant as a helpful guide for anyone who was in need of water.
This symbol was commonly painted on the faces of Native Americans as war paint. It was meant to add power and speed to the warrior and it was painted in red, like the Thunderbird.
This symbol indicated a body of water housing food. It was meant to help the survival of their people. Fish were caught by hunters and prepared by women, who had it smoked in order to preserve it for the winter months.
The Eye Of A Medicine Man
A medicine man was thought to have magical healing powers and could see into the future. The outer lines of the symbol represent the four corners of the Universe. The inner lines represent the Spirit world. The center circle represents the eye of the Medicine Man and his spiritual vision.
The moon was the protector and guardian of the earth. However, it could also be drawn along with snow to indicate the winter or drawn with falling leaves to indicate autumn.
The morning star signifies the renewal of tradition and resurrection of the heroes of the past. It is a sign of courage and purity of spirit.
This symbol was either meant to indicate the geography of an area or it was meant to announce that a journey had been made across a mountain range.
A broken arrow represents peace. It represents an end to the war. It means the fighting is going to end and the arrows are going to be put down.
Arrows are portrayed in the symbol of Protection because they were the Native American’s main form of defense. The circle wrapped around the two arrows signifies family ties, closeness, and protection
Rain represents renewal, fertility, and change. It can also represent plentiful crops.
This is a malevolent creature of the Underworld. It is a monster who devoured his enemies. Whenever a serpent is seen, it represents death.
A shaman acts as a medium between the visible world and the spirit world. They practice rituals to ensure good health, bountiful harvests, successful hunts, and good weather.
Mandan Hide with symbols. Knife River Indian Village, North Dakota. Click for prints, downloads and products.
For the earth he drew a straight line,
For the sky a bow above it;
White the space between for day-time,
Filled with little stars for night-time;
On the left a point for sunrise,
On the right a point for sunset,
On the top a point for noontide,
And for rain and cloudy weather
Waving lines descending from it.
From The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When European explorers arrived in America, Native Americans did not communicate through writing as we know it. Instead, they told stories (oral histories) and created pictures and symbols. This type of communication is not unique to Native Americans, as long before writing was developed, people around the world recorded events, ideas, plans, maps, and feelings by drawing pictures and symbols on rocks, hides, and other surfaces.
Historic pictorial symbols for a word or a phrase have been found dating to before 3000 BC. These symbols, called pictographs, are created by painting on rock surfaces with natural pigments. These natural pigments included iron oxides found in hematite or limonite, white or yellow clays, and soft rock, charcoal, and copper minerals. These natural pigments were mixed to produce a palette of yellow, white, red, green, black, and blue. Historic pictographs are usually found under protective ledges or in caves where they have been protected from the weather.
Paviotso Paiute making petroglyphs by Edward S. Curtis, 1924.
Another similar form of communication, called petroglyphs, were carved, pecked, or abraded into stone surfaces. This carving could produce a visible indentation in the rock or it could cut deeply enough to reveal unweathered material of a different color below.
Native American symbols were like words and often had one or more definitions and/or contained different connotations. Varying from tribe to tribe, it can sometimes be difficult to know their meanings, while other symbols are very clear. With the multiple languages spoken by Native American tribes, symbols or “picture writing” was often used to convey words and ideas. Symbols were also used to decorate homes, were painted on buffalo hides and recorded important events of the tribe.
Petroglyphs in the Petrified Forest of Arizona by the National Park Service.
These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.
The arrival of Spanish people to the Southwest in 1540 had a dramatic impact on the lifestyle of the pueblo people. In 1680 the Pueblo tribes rose up in revolt of Spanish rule, and drove the settlers out of the area and back to El Paso, Texas. In 1692 the Spanish resettled in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. As a result of their return, there was a renewed influence of the Catholic religion, which discouraged participation by the Puebloans in many of their traditional ceremonial practices. As a consequence, many of these practices went underground, and much of the image-making by the Puebloans decreased.
There were many reasons for creating the Petroglyphs, most of which are not well understood by modern society. Petroglyphs are more than just “rock art,” picture writing, or an imitation of the natural world. They should not be confused with hieroglyphics, which are symbols used to represent words, nor thought of as ancient Indian graffiti. Petroglyphs are powerful cultural symbols that reflect the complex societies and religions of the surrounding tribes.
Native American Symbols, Totems & Their Meanings – Digital Download
The context of each image is extremely important and integral to its meaning. Today’s native people have stated that the placement of each petroglyph image was not a casual or random decision. Some petroglyphs have meanings that are only known to the individuals who made them. Others represent tribal, clan, kiva, or societal markers. Some are religious entities and others show who came to the area and where they went. Petroglyphs still have contemporary meaning, while the meaning of others is no longer known, but are respected for belonging to “those who came before.”
Throughout the United States, there are thousands of pictographs and petroglyphs with the greatest concentration in the American Southwest. The site that has the most is the Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico. At the monument, archaeologists have estimated there may be over 25,000 petroglyph images along the 17 miles of the escarpment. A small percentage of the petroglyphs found within the park pre-date the Puebloan time period, perhaps reaching as far back as 2000 B.C. Other images date from historic periods starting in the 1700s, with petroglyphs carved by early Spanish settlers. It is estimated 90% of the monument’s petroglyphs were created by the ancestors of today’s Pueblo people. Puebloans have lived in the Rio Grande Valley since before 500 A.D., but a population increase around 1300 A.D. resulted in numerous new settlements. It is believed that the majority of the petroglyphs were carved from about 1300 through the late 1680s.
|Bear Paw||Good Omen|
|Big Mountain||Great abundance|
|Bird||Free of worry, Carefree|
|Broken Cross Circle||Four Seasons, That Which Revolves|
|Brothers||Unity, Equality, Loyalty|
|Buffalo Skull||Sacredness, Reverence for Life|
|Cactus||Sign of desert|
|Coyote & Coyote Tracks||Trickster|
|Deer Track||Game plentiful|
|Drawn Bow & Arrow||Hunting|
|Drying Rack||Plenty of Meat|
|End of Trail||Peace, End of War|
|Evil Eye||This symbol protects from the curse of the Evil Eye.|
|Facing Arrows||Warding off evil spirits|
|Four Ages||Infancy, Youth, Middle, Old Age|
|Gecko||Sign of Desert|
|Gila Monster||Dream Time|
|Great Spirit||The Great Spirit is a conception of universal spiritual force, or supreme being prevalent among most Native American tribes.|
|Kokopelli||Flute Player, Fertility|
|Medicine Man’s Eye||Wisdom|
|Peace Pipe||Ceremonial, sacred|
|Rain Clouds||Good Prospect|
|Rattle Snake Jaws||Strength|
|Skyband||Leading to Happiness|
|Sun God Mask||The Sun God is a powerful spirit among a number of Native American tribes.|
|Swastika||Four corners of the world, Well-Being|
|Thunderbird||Unlimited Happiness, Caller of Rain|
|Thunderbird Track||Bright Prospect|
|Water Running||Constant Life|
|Wolf Paw||Freedom, Success|
|Zuni Bear||Good Health|
Compiled, designed, and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated September 2021.
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Native American Symbols
Native American Symbols and Meanings
An illustrated guide to Native American Symbols of America with pictures and videos. The articles on Native America Symbols include the Interpretation and Meanings of the symbols and picture writing found on various material objects and items. Click the following link for all other forms of Native Indian Art and Crafts.
Native American Symbols and Signs
Symbols and signs were used for a variety of different reasons in the Native American culture and were depicted on numerous objects and articles used by the men and women of the tribes.
Picture Dictionary of Native American Symbols
The Native American Dictionary of symbols provides a complete list of symbols and signs in alphabetical order providing their meaning and interpretation with pictures of the symbols, signs, motifs and icons.
Native American Symbols - Meanings of Animal Symbols
This section covers the symbols and meanings of a variety of different animals. Animal symbols are very special to the Native Americans. Native American Animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide. Learn about the meaning of Animal Symbols including animals such as the Deer, Fox, Gila Monster, Raccoon, Snake, Turtle, Wolf & Horse.
Native American Symbols - Color Symbolism
This article will allow you to gain an insight into the color meanings and symbolism of the secret and mysterious symbols used by Native American Indians. Understand the significance of pictures Native Americans - such as the Iowa Indian picture. What is the significance of the red and black face paint? Native American Indians believe that certain colors have religious, or sacred, meanings and connotations.
Native American Symbols - Meanings of Bird Symbols
Native American Symbols, like the Bird Symbols, can vary in meaning from one tribe and culture to another. Because of their amazing power of flight, many birds are revered as bringers of messages and symbols of change. They include song birds, water birds and birds of prey and the creatures of legend and mythology such as the thunderbird and the Piasa Bird.
Native American Symbols - American Indian Tattoos
Native American Symbols are often used in tattoos featuring pictures and the culture of American Indians. The significance of different designs of American Indian tattoos varied as did the reasons for adopting tattoo traditions. American Indian tattoos might be symbolic marking an important event such as a rite of passage in a person's progress in life from one status to another, coming of age or a initiation which was often accompanied by ceremonies. This article provides ideas and inspiration for symbols to use on tattoos.
Native American Symbols - Grave-posts
The Native American Indians venerated their dead and grave-posts were used by some tribes to commemorate the life of a brave warrior or chief. The picture drawings on grave-posts consisted of symbols that represented the life of the deceased Native American Indian, his family, his deeds of courage against enemies or during hunting parties and also and wounds that were received in battle.
Native American Symbols - The Interpretation of Symbols
The interpretation of Symbols reveals secrets of the rituals and traditions of Native Americans, an understanding of their legends and mythology and their unique view of the world and their surroundings. The enigmatic symbols of the Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders are difficult to interpret. The true meaning and interpretation of their symbols can never really be known and their meanings, and some of our conclusions, are based on best guesses by piecing fragments of information together.
Native American Symbols - The Creek Alphabet
The traditional Creek alphabet was adopted by the tribe in the late 1800s is based on the Latin script but transcribed as Native American symbols. There are 20 letters in the Creek alphabet. The traditional Creek alphabet was adopted by the tribe in the late 1800s is based on the Latin script. There are 20 letters in the Creek alphabet. It is based on the Muskogee Creek language.
Native American Symbols and other Non-verbal forms of Communication
The meanings and use of symbols was just one of the forms of non-verbal communication methods used by Native American Indians. The different types of non-verbal communication methods were:
Native American Symbols
- Native American Symbols for kids
- Symbols of Native Americans
- Images and Pictures of Native Indians
- Interesting Facts and information for on symbols kids and schools
- Signs, Icons, Motifs, Life, culture and beliefs
- Culture and way of life
- Native American Symbol interpretation for kids with pictures and Videos
Pictures and Videos of Native American Symbols
Native American Symbols! Discover the vast selection of pictures on the subject of Native American Symbols. The pictures show the clothing, weapons and decorations of various Native American Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational resource for kids and children of all ages. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic of this section. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with the information and the many facts featured on this subject. Details of all of the articles and pages contained on www.warpaths2peacepipes.com can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index. We hope you enjoy watching the Native American videos - just click and play - a great educational resource for kids.
Arrowhead – Alertness.
Arrow Pointing Right – Protection.
Arrow Pointing Left – Warding of Evil
The bear track symbol is often viewed by native Americans as a good omen.
A mythical Native American creature that dominates all natural activities, the Thunderbird symbolizes divine dominion, protection, provision, strength, authority, and indomitable spirit. This cross-cultural symbol is found among the Plains Indians as well as the tribes in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast, though its meaning may vary across different groups. Some tribes considered the Thunderbird to be a sign of war and the sound of thunder in the clouds was believed to be a prophecy of victory in tribal wars if ritual dances and ceremonies were performed. Others looked at the Thunderbird as a solar animal that controlled the dawn of day and night by opening and closing its eyes that were made of the Sun.
Honored as Kachina by most Pueblo tribes, the morning star is a sign of courage and purity of spirit.
– This is an important symbol of the Hopi people and many other Native American tribes. The Maze represents the maze of life, that is, the obstacles and challenges that one has to overcome to evolve spiritually and become one with the divine power. It is also known as the Mother Earth symbol and signifies the deep bond between the mother Earth and us, her children. The center line symbolizes the child (a metaphor for the beginning of our philosophical journey) and the surrounding maze represents the mother’s (Earth’s or Nature’s) support that is always available to guide the child through life. The Mother Earth/Maze symbol identifies all that is sacred in nature and reminds man to revere and be thankful for it.
This Native American animal symbol was seen as humanitarian and many tribes venerated it as a bird of creation. The Raven was also recognized for its high enthusiasm, energy, easy charm, and wisdom, and sought after for advice, opinions, and ideas.
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Symbols and Meanings
Symbols and Meanings
Bird Man represented the Upperworld, order, and light
Bird Track symbolized light-hearted freedom. The tracks of any animal or bird were used to indicate a direction.
Brothers symbolized brothers and blood brothers
Butterfly symbolized transformation
Change symbolized by weather related symbols of rain, lightening and clouds. These are all important symbols representing change, renewal & fertility.
Eye of a Medicine Man A Medicine Man, or Shaman, was believed to have magical powers of Spiritual Healing and of seeing into the future
Family symbolized within a circle or by a tepee or pictogram of a man, woman, boy and girl
Feathers symbolized honor & connected the user with the Creator
Great Spirit symbolized the principal deity in the religion of many Native American people
Handprint symbolized human life and this sign was believed to channel energy to the wearer.
Hoof Print represented the number of horses that were taken on a raid
Symbols and Meanings