All throughout human history, man has been using animals as a subject matter on their art craft. Through time, animal symbols and pictures have appeared on caves, ornaments, paintings, and sculptures. Different cultures regarded animal symbols with different meanings. Some of the animals symbolize power and some of them represent gods.
Native American animal symbols were brought about by the way that they lived their lives. They communicated with their Creator through interaction with anything that breathes, hears, smells, senses and sees, which includes animals.
While it’s not easy to believe, almost every Native American believes that they are guided by a spirit and it is usually represented by an animal. As they journey through their lives, different animals come into play that somehow influences them in one way or the other.
Probably the most popular and well known Native American animal symbol is the buffalo. To them, it represents the bounties of the mother earth as they use the buffalo in a lot of ways. Aside from the meat and the milk that nurtures them, they also made their clothing out of the buffalo’s hides and use it to help them plough their lands. The buffalo also symbolizes wisdom, renewal, and personal power.
The eagle also plays a prominent part in the Native American’s culture. It represents divine spirit that they believe would protect them and all living things that surround them. It also signifies freedom and courage and carriers of prayers, visions, and spirits. It is common for the Natives to believe that eagles are emissaries from heaven.
One of the Native American animal symbols that you will often find on different ornaments and weavings is the lizard. They are believed to symbolize strength and they serve as spiritual guide that can help them cure the sick. It is also believed to promote dreaming and sometimes symbolizes agility and conservation.
Unique to the Navajos, who are one of the Native Americans who lived in the southwestern part of the United States, is the horned lizard. To them, it signifies perseverance and secret keeping. Horned lizards can often be found on Navajo’s stories and tales.
The hummingbird, on the other hand, symbolizes devotion, permanence and eternity. Native Americans observed that although hummingbirds are small, they are known to be good at protecting their territory and will fight ferociously to defend it.
Since parrots are connected to the sun and the rainy season, they have been considered as messengers from gods that can bring specific prayers and blessings.
Although most of us think of owl as a sign of being wise, some tribes of Native Americans such as Apache and Navajo consider them as messengers of bad news. When someone gets an encounter with an owl, it means that they are going to get bad news or worst, someone is going to die. It is something that they avoid at all cost as it is always associated with death.
Among the Native American animal symbols that became popularly associated with the Indians is the bear. As it was depicted in the movie “The Legends of The Fall,” the bear is known to be a good protector that also symbolizes the wild and untamable side of humanity. It signifies strength and leadership and often mentioned in tales as the first helper in the creation.
Photo Credits – Creative Commons
By Terry from uk [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons