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Special Meaning of Animals to Native Americans

written by: Mary Rajotte • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 9/17/2013

Native American animal symbols can become a special totem that provides pride, and strength, while acting as a guide for the individual. Learn about the Native American zodiac and how its animal symbols provide strength and pride to Native Americans.

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    Nativeamericangirl In the culture of the Native Americans, animal symbols are often used to represent different families, tribes or individuals.

    Native Americans hold the belief that throughout a person's life, he or she will be guided by his or her spirit guide. These guides are symbolized by a particular animal, whose characteristics are mirrored or adopted by the individual.

    Depending on the situation or events that are going on in one's life, different animals will come into play and serve as a symbol that can help them on their journey.

    Many of the inherent characteristics of a specific animal are also associated with their symbolic qualities, and offer an easy way for one to identify their own Native American animal symbols.

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    What Is A Totem?

    A totem is a symbol that represents the animal one identifies with. Sometimes found in the form of a crest, an emblem or figurine, the symbols depict one's animal guide.

    Native Americans believe that one is given their animal guide at birth. The Native American zodiac is similar to other zodiacs where a person's birthday designates which totem represents them. Bears, buffalo, deer, eagles and snakes are just a few of the animals which have been known to be used totems.

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    Native American Zodiac Chart

    Since the lives of Native Americans are so closely tied to nature, the Earth and its creatures were revered and their animal symbols thought of with a sense of pride.

    Listed below is the Native American zodiac, it’s corresponding animals and the qualities thought to be associated with each:

    • Otter (Jan 20 - Feb 18): Quirky, perceptive, intuitive
    • Wolf (Feb 19 – Mar 20): Emotional, gentle, compassionate
    • Falcon (Mar 21 – Apr 19 ): Persistent, a leader
    • Beaver (Apr 20 – May 20 ): Adaptive, razor sharp, strategic
    • Deer (May 21 – Jun 20): Spirited, lively, personable
    • Woodpecker (Jun 21 – Jul 21): Nurturing, understanding, devoted
    • Salmon (Jul 22 – Aug 21): Focused, creative, energetic
    • Bear (Aug 22 – Sep 21): Practical, level-headed, generous
    • Raven (Sep 22 – Oct 22): Enthusiastic, energetic, charming
    • Snake (Oct 23 – Nov 22): Spirited, healer, mysterious
    • Owl (Nov 23 – Dec 21): Easy-going, sensitive, energetic
    • Goose (Dec 22 – Jan 19): Driven, ambitious, humorous
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    Learning from Storytelling

    Animal guides were passed down from generation to generation, through tribe elders and the practice of storytelling. Through storytelling, tribes were able to preserve their history, language and culture, and instill a sense of pride to younger generations.

    By learning one’s animal spirit guide, a sense of hope and support is given to those who are Native American. Animal symbols offer a deeper connection to the natural world in which they lived, and provide a way for Native Americans to understand their past while aspiring to a bright future.

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    Sources

    • Animal Totems & Animal Symbolism: http://www.whats-your-sign.com/native-american-animal-symbols.html
    • Native American Astrology: http://www.xtraastrology.com/native_american_astrology.html
    • Native American Totems: http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-totems.html

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