A totem can be the symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual.

Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides. Different animal guides come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey.

We all have power animals which can be accessed. Here are a list of animals and their meanings in Native American beliefs.

Native beliefs further explain that a totem animal is one that is with you for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Though people may identify with different animal guides throughout their lifetimes, it is this one totem animal that acts as the main guardian spirit.

 With this one animal a connection is shared, either through interest in the animal, characteristics, dreams, or other interaction.

 This Animal Guide offers power and wisdom to the individual when they "communicate” with it, conveying their respect and trust. This does not necessarily mean that you actually pet or spend time with this animal, more that you are open to learning its lessons.

The Bear

The Bear is a symbol of power, strength and healing.  The Bear is held in high respect by all, as it is beloved as an elder family member of the human race.
When hunted and killed the body of the bear was generally taken to the chief's dwelling and showered in eagle down, which is a gracious symbol of welcoming friendship.

The Eagle 

Eagles are traditionally associated with traits such as great strength, leadership and incredible prestige.  In Indian societies Eagles are known as the messenger of the Creator and are  placed high regard.  Their habit of soaring at great heights led Indian people to think of Eagles as the carriers of prayers to the Creator.  Eagle down is scattered before honoured guests during entrance to dances and other important ceremonies. An eagle feather is considered a lucky token to both the presenter and the receiver.

The Frog 

Most tribes considered the frog to be a successful communicator and an honoured keeper of tradition. Among many West Coast tribes, the Frog heralds in spring and new life. Frogs would be carved on house poles and totem poles to bring good fortune to the building and to ensure it would not collapse.

The Hummingbird 

In Indian societies it was commonly associated with love, beauty and intelligence.  They are regarded as spirit messengers.  These brilliantly coloured, fast birds grace the West Coast during the early Summer months.

The Killer Whale/ Orca 

The killer whale is commonly associated with beauty and power. Frequently regarded as a traveller and a guardian, killer whales are thought to be closely related to humans. One tribe even believes that killer whales are their reincarnated ancestors.

The Moon 

The moon has a very prominent role in Northwest Native legend. Viewed as the protector of the people during the night, his nightly appearance was very important. It was thought that when a solar eclipse occurred a giant fish was actually swallowing the moon. For their very survival they would start an enormous bonfire and throw as much green or wet wood into it as possible. This would create such a smoke plum that the fish would cough up the moon and put him back in his place.

The Raven 

The Raven is associated with creation and knowledge.   Similar to Loki, this sly bird is known for both mischief and as the bringer of light to humanity. The legend of the Raven says that in a mythical time, a greedy sky tribe captured and hid the sun away - leaving the human race in darkness.  At this time Raven was white as snow.  To relieve the misery of the human tribe, Raven flew down a chimney to retrieve the sun.  After putting the sun back in place, black soot was embedded in his feathers, leaving him permanently black.  While Raven sacrificed his beautiful color for humanity, there are also many stories of how the raven’s mischievous nature got the best of him.

The Sun 

In Northwest Native culture the sun is known to provide the earth with healing energy and life. According to most tribal legends the raven stole the sun from an evil tribe, who had hidden it away for themselves. He then placed it in the sky, where it remains until today for all to enjoy.

The Wolf 

Generally perceived to emit intelligence, individualism and leadership they are also seen as pathfinders. Known for their family values, wolves mate for life. Always on top of new ideas, the wolf is also a patient teacher.

The Thunderbird 

Among West Coast Indians, the Thunderbird symbolizes Mystical Power and Leadership.  A mythical creature that inhabited the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.  The Thunderbird was said to have a wing span of two war canoes and destroyed enemies with bolts of lightening.  This legendary great bird traditionally preyed upon Killer Whales, which once caught, were taken up to the mountain nest to feed the bird and its offspring.

People must listen their inner voice to choose a totem animal !And sometimes strangely it's the animal choose   to follow you all your life as ally.

Ant: group mind, patience, action

Buffalo: sacredness, life, abundance

Butterfly: metamorphosis and transformation

Coyote: the trickster, devilment

Crow: law, shape shifting, change

Deer: gentleness, caring and kindness

Dragonfly: Illusion - Transcendence

Elk: strength and agility

Fox: cunning, agility, quick-witted

Hawk: messenger, intuition, discernment

Horse: stamina, mobility

Kokopelli: fertility, music and joy

Moose: headstrong, longevity, steadfastness

Owl: deception, clairvoyance, insight (the night eagle)

Rabbit: fear, timidity, nervousness, humility

Snake: shrewdness, rebirth

Spider: Creatrix, web spinner

Squirrel: planner, gatherer

Swan: grace, balance and innocence

Turtle: nurturer, protector, mother energy

Responses to "Animals and Totems in Native American Cultures"

  1. lindablog says:

    je ne pensais pas qu'il y avait autant d'animaux qui se rapportait a la culture indienne

  2. Anonymous says:

    THANKYOU SO much for this!!!!!!!!!!!!I have one foot out the door for the day ...and I am going to think about this ALL DAY till I can read ...been wanting this!THANKS!LisiW

  3. I know my animal spirit it is that of a white wolf, and I am looking for people who want to join my pack, but in this day and age it is hard.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What about the Vulture?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I always thought that your spirit animal chooses you and that you should embrace it, accept it and follow that path.

  6. Unknown says:

    This is very good, thank you!

  7. Anonymous says:

    this was helpful, so thanks. next time maybe add where these totems are in the world and who made them

    xxxx thanks

  8. Anonymous says:


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