Native American Symbols

Native American symbols were often used by tribes to visually represent things of importance in their lifestyles and traditions. Simple images were created in order to depict ideas, animals, personal qualities, and natural events. When used together, a collection of these symbols can tell a story. They have been used as decoration for centuries on things like pottery, jewelry, paintings, totem poles, and even tattoos. Looking up the meanings of Native American symbols is a great way to learn more about a specific item or artifact.

Common Native American Symbols and Their Meanings

Arrowhead - Alertness

Single Arrow - Protection

Broken arrow - Peace

Two crossed arrows - Friendship

Cross (may look like a plus sign) - The journey of life, paths crossing

Teepee - Temporary home

Hogan (looks like a wagon wheel) - Permanent home

Four directions (resembles a swastika) - The circle of life, peace, the four seasons

Full sun - Happiness, warmth, gives life

Storm clouds (clouds with rain and lightning) - Fertility, blessing, renewal

Large mountain - Abundance

Horse - Journey, travel, freedom, land

Eagle - Wisdom, courage, freedom, is believed to be connected to a deity and carry prayers due to its high flight

Bear footprint or track - A good sign or a positive omen, leadership

Bear - Leadership, protective mother, physical strength, intelligence, courage

Shaman's eye (two diamonds with a dot in the center) - Medicine, wisdom

Gecko (lizard) - Sign of a desert

Turtle - Long life, fertility, strength

Coyote - Trickster, a bad omen, accepting human limitation

Buffalo - Gratitude, abundance, life, wisdom

Butterfly - Everlasting life

Raven - Teacher, trickster, creator, hoarder, caretaker

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