29 Native American Spirit Animals (and Their Meanings)

Totem pole

What is my Native American spirit animal? The answer is: if you're not a Native American in a tradition that reveres animals as spirit guides, you do not have one. You can have an animal that is significant and meaningful to you, your own personal symbol or inspiration, but "spirit animal" is a term rife with cultural appropriation and should not be used. Most of the information surrounding the term comes from New Age writers, appropriating imagery and twisting certain traditions.

Meaning of Animal Symbols

For the purposes of this article, these are the general meanings that have evolved for these particular animals. It should not be taken as fact that this is what the various Indigenous American clans believe about these animals.

Native Americans believe humans were created to serve as caretakers of Mother Earth. This role bestows insight that all living things are connected and each has a spirit, none lesser than any other. Nature is viewed as a benevolent friend and ally. This brotherhood with all things is reflected by the respect and reverence they give to animals, including those on this Native American animals list, which are viewed as guardian spirits.

Bear

Bear

Indigenous American animal stories about bears are very common throughout Native American communities. These include bear gods and menacing bear spirits. For these groups, hunting and eating bears is forbidden. The bear is just and punishes anyone who acts disrespectfully or improperly. Some clans view the bear as a violent predator while others revere the mother bear's protectiveness.

The bear teaches the joy of solitude. The bear spirit brings courage, confidence and a grounding energy. It can guide you in healing or stand behind you to face an enemy. When bear appears to you, the message is to stand up for what you believe in and fight for the truth.

Wolf

Wolf

Another prominent animal spirit is the wolf. Just like the bear, wolf clans are common. Wolves are credited with being early ancestors of some Indigenous peoples while others see them as protectors. Many clans honor the wolf with dances and totems.

Wolf spirit is intelligent, social, relies on instincts and loves freedom. If you feel threatened or distrustful, the wolf can help you overcome these obstacles. Whenever a wolf appears to you, the message is to pay closer attention to your instincts and intuition.

Hawk

Hawk

The hawk is another clan and Indigenous peoples' totem animal. It's a symbol of great strength and courage. The hawk protects the clans from enemies and appears in dreams to forewarn of danger.

The hawk appears to remind you to use your intuition in daily life. The hawk is an observer from a higher perspective and grants the power of observation to assess situations before acting. If hawk comes to you, he encourages you to pay closer attention to the spirit world and spirit messages.

Turtle

Turtle

The Native American creation story of North America (Turtle Island) describes how the Great Spirit created the East Coast tribes' homeland on the back of a giant turtle. The shape of North America is believed to resemble the shell and legs of a turtle. It's not surprising that turtle clans are very common as well as a traditional turtle dance.

Turtles are associated with healing, wisdom, protection, fertility, longevity, and spirituality. Turtles are also the peace-makers. When the turtle appears to you, the message is to remain determined yet serene. The turtle also alerts you to slow down and take time to examine your surroundings and find a path of peace, be it for the mind, environment or life in general. It also reminds you to stay grounded, especially when you're upset or life becomes unsettling.

Buffalo (Bison)

Buffalo

Buffalo is another clan animal and was vital to the survival of Indigenous people. It provided meat, fur for clothing and tipis (teepees), and bone for making tools. Many rituals, prayers, and dances were created around the hunt for the buffalo.

In Sioux stories, the White Buffalo Calf Woman taught the people many survival skills, educated them about civilization and spiritual rituals and ceremonies. Most importantly, she bestowed the "scared peace pipe" to the Lakota people.

The buffalo brings medicine knowledge that's considered sacred. If you are in a battle, the buffalo may appear to you as a reminder that the true path is one of peace. You may be required to show great strength and stamina to achieve this ideal. Buffalo can help you to manifest many things, protect you, grant you courage and strength and bestow knowledge; all to help you in your sacred path to overcome all challenges.

Deer

Deer

This clan animal is considered sacred among many of the America southwest tribes and Mexican tribes. In some Indigenous cultures, deer is considered the keeper of the Earth. These caretakers are also a symbol of fertility and sacrifice themselves to feed the tribes. A Cherokee legend states that the deer and rabbit raced to see which was the fastest and the prize was large antlers.

If a deer shows up, pay attention to your intuition and honor those abilities that make you sensitive. The deer bestows you with the grace to overcome challenges and obstacles. You may be a gentle person, but the deer shows you how to use your instincts to survive and gives you a strength most people underestimate. It's your determination to achieve your goals that provides you with formidable strength and infuses tenderness and grace in all you do.

Caribou (Reindeer)

Caribou

Caribou Man is an Innu mythology animal master. The masters oversee the care of specific animals and grant the Innu the right to hunt and use these animals for food. Caribou Man is often the spokesperson for the other animal masters. In the Innu mythology, a displeased Caribou Man over the treatment of the caribou can prevent the tribe from finding caribou on their hunts, resulting in starvation.

Caribou (reindeer) brings strong ties to family that cannot be severed by distance or time. The spirit infuses the energy of a leader that is excellent for those wishing to become involved in their community and even lead in the development of a spirit of community.

Elk

Elk

In Indigenous people's folklore, the Elk is the symbol for passion and love. The Elk Men created the first flutes and were used to seduce women. In traditions, Elk Men are prominent participants in most sacred ceremonies.

The arrival of elk into your life signifies a period of abundance and love. In addition, elk energy will show you how to achieve specific goals and imbue confidence.

Moose

Moose

In Indigenous people's folklore, the story of the Moose Woman tells of a hunter and a woman who belonged to the Moose family. The hunter was unfaithful and lost his power to hunt, but when he returned to his wife begging for forgiveness, she gave it to him and his hunting ability returned.

Moose brings joy whenever you accomplish goals and master the challenges in life. Moose energy infuses confidence. While you may be a mixture of grace and clumsiness, the moose's antlers are called "Crown of Courage." The moose spirit's courageous energy will guide you to self-discovery.

Bat

Bat

The story of the bat's origin is dark and connected with the Ayase tribe and two blind women cannibals. A man fooled the women into stabbing each other and he destroyed their bodies that turned into bats.

Bats appear to announce major life-changing event is in store. Bats can provide protection when you must face dark times or have been symbolically left in the dark. If others have kept secrets from you, (keeping you in the dark) bat spirit helps you discover the truth and see what was previously hidden. If you're left hanging and don't know what to do, bat spirit can offer you greater insight. Bat's message can also advise retreat and rest.

Lizard

Lizard

Native American mythology holds the lizard as a healer and some tribes consider killing a lizard brings bad luck. For some tribes, the lizard plays a major role in the creation story.

Lizard brings some excellent gifts, such as being adaptable. Some have the ability to camouflage themselves and blend into their environment. The lizard teaches how to become flexible and adapt to whatever comes your way. Lizard energy is quick and reactive to whatever comes its way. The lizard also has unique regenerative powers and can regrow a severed tail. The lizard appearing in your life carries the message that it is time to grow or be reborn and start over in a new direction.

Butterfly

Butterfly

The Blackfoot tribe legend casts the butterfly as the bringer of sleep and dreams. For some tribes, the butterfly was a major player in their creation story.

The butterfly comes to you at a time of personal transformation. This transformation can take many forms, such as emotional, physical, or even a career change. Whatever is needed to ensure you continue in growing and learning beyond your current stage of development. The butterfly reminds us that life is a cycle of changes, rebirth, and renewal that is a natural part of the existence. The butterfly spirit is full of life and joy and serves to remind you of these important values of living.

Dove

Dove

In Indigenous people's mythology, the dove is a protector and a symbol of love.

  • Blackfoot tribe war leaders took dove feathers with them as protective talismans for those under their command.
  • Turtledoves were considered heralds of impending death.
  • Other tribes revered the dove as a symbol of love. The dove bestowed the gift of speech to the children of the Aztec and Mexican tribes' goddess of love, Xochiquetzal. Unfortunately, each child spoke a different language.

If a dove crosses your path, it's to remind you inner peace is always there for you to retreat to or rediscover. The dove's lesson is one of love and peace. If you focus on dove energy, you can release past hurts and disharmony and rediscover the joy of inner peace and universal love.

Salmon

Salmon

In Indigenous American mythology, the salmon is revered by tribes along the Pacific Northwest region. There are ceremonies and even dances in tribute to the salmon's sacrifice as a food to sustain the First People. The Legend of the Lost Salmon conveys how tribes should respect nature and the ways of the tribe.

Salmon infuses you with the energies of renewal and prosperity. This animal also brings the determination you'll need to reach all goals. Other traits that are important to this animal include confidence and a genuine enthusiasm for life and all you undertake. Tradition states that salmon arrives with a message that you might need to fight for the things you want in life. You may also need to change and become something more in order to reach the goals and master the challenges set between you and what you desire.

Fox

Fox

The fox is considered one of the most cunning of animals. To the Cherokees and Hopi, the fox had healing powers. The Apache honored the fox for having given man the gift of fire. The fox spirit brings the ability to think fast. The ability to hear and see better than most animals gifts whoever the fox visits with clarity. You may suddenly be able to see your situation from a better perspective while uncovering things you didn't recognize before the fox crossed your path. You may pay closer attention to things you hear and gain greater understanding.

The fox is also a master of camouflage. It can move about without being seen. This ability can aid you in various situations where you might need the ability to blend in with any group dynamic or practically be invisible so you can observe a specific situation or setting. One of the most powerful abilities of the fox is that as a protector of its family.

Otter

Otter

One Ojibwe legend tells how the mischievous and clever otter played a trick on the bear that cost the bear its tail. In Native American culture, the otter is the symbol of feminine energy. The otter can live in the water and on the earth, proving it is adaptable and easy to live in both elements. If the animal Spirit otter has appeared to you, the message is to lighten up. You are being reminded that work should be balanced with a time for playing. The otter is the epitome of joy and playfulness and often described as a trickster.

The otter awakens curiosity. It may be time for you to explore new things, such as vacation places, travel, homes, careers or other areas of your life. You may be inspired to visit or even move to a place where you'll have access to large bodies of water.

Falcon

Falcon

Some stories about the falcon feature a condor or bald eagle stealing his wife and the falcon fighting the other bird to her back. As a result of his warrior abilities to win back his wife, the falcon holds the place of being a very powerful spirit animal. When the falcon appears to you, he announces it's your turn to take a position of power. This can be an actual position within a company or organization. It could also indicate a personal relationship where you need to take control of a situation. Those already in positions of power can call upon the falcon spirit to help in planning strategies or even help in holding onto power. The falcon can also encourage you to take bold steps and forge ahead by bolstering you with the needed strength for any fight.

Beaver

Beaver

Beavers are a major animal featured in Native American stories. It depends on the clan whether the beaver is a positive or negative omen. Some depict him as a hard-working industrious little guy, while other tales portray him as being stubborn and even selfish for causing floods with his dams. Other tales depict the beaver as a builder. The Ojibwe story about how the beaver got his tail describes how the beaver was so proud of his bushy tail, but none of the animals liked his bragging. While cutting down a large tree, the beaver was pinned when the tree fell on his tail. His glorious tail was flattened.

The lesson you can learn from the beaver is not to be prideful, but to strive to build things in life that will make it a better world. If beaver comes into your life, the message is one of cooperation. Look at your current situation and what matters you need to be more cooperative. The beaver imparts the wisdom of persistence and determination.

Owl

Owl

In some Indigenous folklore, the owl is considered a spirit helper and guide, while others portray the owl as a bad omen and even a warning of death. Some stories depict the owl as a supernatural dark messenger sent to warn of impending danger and doom. The Hopi and Pueblo associate owls with witchcraft and witches. The Choctaw believe if you hear a horned owl screech, it is a warning of sudden death, usually meaning murder.

Some believe when the owl appears, he's simply a messenger to step outside your own perspective and become a silent observer. Another message is to leave the past where it belongs so you can enjoy the present and a true future. The owl bestows the gift of second sight as well as an exceptional ability to hear. This is often interpreted as hearing the things that aren't said.

Coyote

Coyote

In some Indigenous stories, the coyote managed to set the buffalo free from their captivity. Another story has the coyote as a co-creator responsible for the creation of the first women.

When coyote appears in your life, prepare to have your life upended. Your reality is going to be challenged by this trickster when coyote unmasks those things hidden. Coyote teaches the duality of life by reflecting how everything is connected. The coyote presents a mirror to help you see what needs to be addressed in your life and won't allow you to continue to avoid it. Coyote has these and other valuable lessons in life to teach you.

Squirrel

Squirrel

Depending on the story, the squirrel is a mischievous pest or admired as a creature of forethought that has learned the value of preparing for the worst by storing its food. There are several species of squirrels and each has specific stories about them.

  • Flying squirrel: The flying squirrel isn't a common story. The ability to shift between an animal and a bird is one theme that tells how the flying squirrel isn't accepted by any of the groups he transforms into. Many view him as a spy, but he always defeats those who attack him.
  • Black squirrel: A Choctaw story blames the black squirrel for solar eclipses stating that the black squirrel is trying to each the sun.

As a messenger, the squirrel reminds you to be resourceful and prepared, and allow time for play. The lesson the squirrel imparts is to achieve a balance between work and play.

Crow

Crow

In Native American culture, the crow is also believed to be a keeper of the Sacred Laws and serves to teach right from wrong. Many shamans are connected to the crow that aids their magic and ability to transform into animals and even people. Another powerful animal spirit, the crow is thought to bring the gift of transformation, psychic abilities as well as the ability to tap into the source of magic.

This is another animal that teaches balance between the negative and positive. The crow asks you to look closely at your life and see beyond the physical to those things cloaked by the darkness of night. This trickster deceives with illusions. As with all tricksters, the crow is mischievous, but it is also very intelligent.

Frog

Frog

One Native American story about the frog is how the frog was nearly killed by the crane for boasting. The moral of the story is how dangerous it can be to boast. Frog spirit encourages you to take that leap whenever new opportunities arise. Frog energy will help you swim through the waters of uncertainty by giving you the strength needed.

Through these energies, you can reconnect with the spirit world and develop your own talents, such as intuition. The frog can help humans reconnect to the feminine energies and emotions (water element). This can also be a time of cleansing and healing. This clearing out of old issues makes room for new and better things to come into your life; it's a renewal or rebirth.

Eagle

Eagle

Sun-Bringer (Kisosen) is depicted in Abenaki culture as an eagle. When the eagle opened its wings, day was created and when it closed the wings, it created night. Another eagle, Wad-zoo-sen created the wind by moving its wings up and down.

Eagle brings clarity, vision, an abundance of wisdom, courage, and hope. The eagle messenger can guide you to spread your wings and soar to great heights. The eagle may come to herald news of a different career path, love interest, or the next level in your spiritual growth. The eagle can show you the way to heal and lead you to explore the freedom that comes from unleashed creativity. Bald eagles are also important Choctaw spirit animals; they are symbols of peace.

Raccoon

Raccoon

One story is about the Meteor Spirit, Wojijéga that came to earth as a comet and meteorite with a hairy raccoon-like tail. The Wojijéga took on human form but wore the skin of a raccoon. Meteorite pieces are honored as being very powerful medicine.

The clever raccoon is at home in the dark and offers its ability to assist you during dark times. Raccoon looks out for family and understands the importance of family bonds. The raccoon mask bestows the power see into other realms since the mask is considered part of magical and ceremonial practices. Follow the raccoon's lead and don or remove your mask to transform or reveal your true self. Raccoon shows up to teach resourcefulness. This could be on a personal growth level or something physical as a career or even building a new life. If you're working on a project that requires secrecy or you need to hide from prying eyes, raccoon energy can help.

Panther

Panther

A Cherokee spirit animal story unfolds as a hunter meets up with a panther in the woods and the two decide to hunt deer together. The man returns to the panther's lair where other panthers are celebrating. He stays so long that he begins to turn into a panther, but leaves to return home. The man dies and the moral of the story states had he stayed with the panthers, he would have lived.

Panther brings the message of living authentically and imbues you with the courage to be yourself. If you have a situation that requires you to stand up and be counted, panther spirit can help. Considered a formidable predator, the panther knows how to disguise itself in shadows and, taking advantage of its dark color. The panther can teach you how to cloak yourself or your plans/intentions from your enemies and gain the upper hand. It offers lessons in caution and introspection before pouncing into action.

Seal

Seal

The story of the first tears of man is told in the Inuit myth of the seals. When a hunter stalked the seals along the shoreline, all but one slipped away into the water. As the man approached the lone seal, salt water began to spring from his eyes and the seal slid into the water. These were the first tears of man.

For the Northwest coastal tribes, seals are symbols of abundance and wealth. The seals are masters of their environment, the ocean, but can also live on the land. They thrive living between the two worlds. The seal can impart the gift of lucid dreams and stimulate the imagination. Seal energy protects against all type of threats. The ability to dive between the two worlds (above and below the surface) is symbolic of moving between the inner and outer worlds. The seal offers deeper insight into the mysteries of the world and bestows the wisdom there.

Turkey

Turkey

The Seminoles share a story about the turkey that was the king of all birds. The turkey would fly into the village and snag a man for his meal. The tribe put an end to the turkey's terror with the help of a dog.

Perhaps it's from this deadly attack that turkeys always travel in a flock. Considered a social bird, turkeys live their lives in a community. They can fly but prefer to perch in the treetops to roost at night far away from most predators. Come daybreak, they return to the ground to forage for food and resume their interaction with each other. Turkeys bring a sense of community and family to you.

Spider

Spider is an arachnid and is prominent in Indigenous spirit animal mythology. A powerful symbol of female energy, the spider's ability to weave beautiful intricate webs also demonstrates a creative energy. The spider web ensnares its prey and the patient spider then scrambles to cocoon its prey for digesting later. This all reveals the spider's ability to plan, execute its plan, and then wait for results. These traits are bestowed on those with the spider as a spirit animal. In fact, the spider's web was the inspiration for the creation of dream catchers. Like the spider web catching unsuspecting insects, the dream catcher captures bad dreams and prevents them from disturbing sleep.

When spider enters your life, either through dreams or in real life, the message is to stop and consider where your life is headed. Balance is key, just as the spider's web is perfectly balanced and anchored in place and the spider is able to maintain balance as it spins a web. Spider asks you to consider if your life is in balance. If not, you need to make changes to bring it into harmony and balance. Spider warns that change is coming, and that change will place you on your path to destiny.

How to Find Your Native American Spirit Animals

As mentioned above, unless you are of a Native American clan that reveres spirit animals, you do not have one.

However, the idea of animal protectors or animal symbols goes back to prehistoric times, across cultures and locations. The Welsh dragon is an example of this. If you feel a strong kinship with a certain animal, there is nothing wrong with that. Be inspired. Feel deeply, and take any symbolic lessons you can learn from them.

You can determine which animal you feel a kinship with by either meditating, daydreaming, sleep dreaming or observing nature. If you have a heartfelt deep affinity with a particular animal, run with it. Pay attention to:

  • Animals appearing in your dreams
  • Feeling a deep connection to any animal
  • Connecting with the thoughts of a certain animal during meditation or any relaxed state
  • Physically seeing or interacting with a particular animal on numerous occasions over a short time,
Native American totem poles

Native Americans and Animals

Certain Native American or Indigenous clans revere spirit animals, and this is a deep, meaningful tradition for them. If you feel a connection to an animal, it's perfectly appropriate to revere that animal without using Native American terms or imagery to do so. A deeper connection with the natural world is never a bad thing, but respecting our fellow human beings is just as important.

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29 Native American Spirit Animals (and Their Meanings)