Bright Side

12 Symbols Native Americans Believed in and What They Meant for the People

Although it is not known how or when the more than 570 Native American tribes first settled in the Americas, what we know is that they brought with them their own unique culture. Some of the practices and symbolism varied among the tribes, but they all shared a deep love and respect for nature.

This Bright Side article tries to analyze the various symbols these nature-loving tribes used, and what significance they had on their lives.

1. Otter

Being an aquatic animal the otter symbolized life and positive life-giving energy. Water is also considered a cleanser and purifier, therefore an otter’s love for it also symbolized healing. This sea animal also represented agility, intelligence, creativity, braveness, and honesty.

2. Coyote

Native American folklore describes the coyote as being a trickster. It is known as a rebel who uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions. However, the coyote also symbolized military might and courage. They are gregarious and are always ready to sacrifice everything for the sake of those they love. They are known to be intense but gentle and generous.

3. Eagle

Just like in many other ancient cultures, eagles were revered by the Native Americans as well. They represented courage, wisdom, and strength. Their feathers also held special significance, especially during prayers and special council meetings. Holding an eagle feather while speaking was seen as an assurance of honesty.

4. Beavers

The various Native American tribes were divided on what beavers represented to them. Some saw beavers as a symbol of hard work and perseverance, while others denounced it as being selfish and stubborn. To those for whom it was a positive symbol, they revered it for its courage and for being a monster slayer. For tribes in the Alaskan region, the beaver also represented success in hunting.

5. Woodpecker

Woodpeckers are considered a lucky charm in many Native American societies and are associated with happiness and prosperity. Some other communities prize them for their medicinal properties. For this reason, woodpecker feathers adorn ceremonial objects, headdresses, and dance regalia.

6. Deer

Deer symbolize prosperity and an abundance of food. This is because the Native Americans followed a deer’s footsteps to find food. The agile animal is also a symbol of gentleness and creativity. If a person is referred to as a deer, it means that they have a great sense of humor and can brighten up any social gathering.

7. Salmon

In Native American culture, salmon were often associated with determination, prosperity, and renewal. Because salmon were a source of good nutrition, tribes respected them and avoided offending them in any manner. Special ceremonies were celebrated at the beginning of the salmon fishing season. If a person is called a salmon, it means he is creative, intuitive, and a great motivator as well.

8. Bear

A bear person is someone who is very calculative and practical. For them, the mind rules over the heart. The bear also symbolizes courage and physical strength. For this reason, the bear sign is often associated with authority and power.

9. Raven

A raven symbolizes creation, transformation, knowledge, and prestige. It also is indicative of the complexities of nature. A raven person can be a romantic and idealist at the same time. People usually love being around them as they are always overflowing with energy and enthusiasm, which can be very contagious.

10. Snake

Native Americans revere rattlesnakes as the grandfather and king of snakes. Some cultures also considered snakes to be a portal between 2 worlds. Snakes are also used as symbols for spiritual leaders and healers. They are considered ambitious but impulsive. This dichotomy of their personality makes them appear mysterious and sometimes unnerving.

11. Owl

The owl symbolism varies considerably among the various Native American tribes. Most tribes consider them a bad omen and associate them with death. While some other tribes respect owls as a protective spirit for brave warriors. Then there are also tribes who think that these nocturnal birds are a carrier of ancient knowledge and that they provide the world with a deep and mystical wisdom.

12. Goose

Goose-like people are those who are the go-getters of the world. They are ambitious and nothing can stop them from achieving their goal. They are reliable and will always stand up for the people they love. Because of their competitive nature, these people are perfectly suited for competitive sports and business.


These signs can also relate to your birth dates. For a curious reference consider the chart below.

So which Native American symbol do you think represents you?