Discover the symbolism behind Native American feathers

"When the Eagle returns, we will again be a great nation." — Jonas Shawandase, Spanish American War Veteran & Tribal Elder of the 1950s

"Our culture is derivative of the natural resources. If our culture dies, the only reminants are its physical attributes, which will soon be dispersed to the natural environment. If that happens, there will be no trace of our living culture." — Stuart Harris, a Cayuse Indian & senior staff scientist, Department of Natural Resources, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Most all Native American Indian Peoples attach special significance to the Eagle and its feathers. Images of eagles and their feathers are used on many tribal logos as symbols of the Native American Indian. To be given an Eagle feather is the highest honor that can be awarded within indigenous cultures.

Both Bald and Golden Eagles (and their feathers) are highly revered and considered sacred within American Indian traditions, culture and religion. They are honored with great care and shown the deepest respect. They represent honesty, truth, majesty, strength, courage, wisdom, power and freedom. As they roam the sky, they are believed to have a special connection to God.

According to traditional American Indian beliefs, the Creator made all the birds of the sky when the World was new. Of all the birds, the Creator chose the Eagle to be the leader... the Master of the Sky.

The Eagle flies higher and sees better than any other bird. Therefore, its perspective is different from other creations that are held close to the Earth, and it is closer to the Creator. The Creator also has a different perspective of what occurs below in this world of physical things in which humankind resides. The Eagle spends more time in the higher element of Father Sky than other birds, and Father Sky is an element of the Spirit.

The Eagle is considered to be a messenger to God. It was given the honor of carrying the prayers of man between the World of Earth and the World of Spirit, where the Creator and grandfathers reside. To wear or hold an Eagle feather causes the Creator to take immediate notice. With the Eagle feather, the Creator is honored in the highest way.

The wings of an Eagle represent the balance needed between male and female, each one dependent upon the strengths and abilities of the other.

When one receives an Eagle feather, that person is being acknowledged with gratitude, love and ultimate respect. The holder of the feather must ensure that anything that changes one’s state of mind (alcohol and drugs) must never come in contact with a sacred Eagle feather.

Photo Credit: VAL Provencio

The keeper of an Eagle feather makes a little home where the feather will be kept safely and protected. It should be hung up within one’s home, not placed in drawers or cupboards.

Eagle feathers are never to be abused, shown disrespect, dropped or contaminated. Only real true human Men and Women carry the Eagle feather.

Photo Credit: VAL Provencio

Many dancers use Eagle feathers as part of their dance regalia. The Creek and Cherokee have an Eagle Dance. If for any reason an eagle feather is dropped, it needs to be cleansed. The arena director’s job is to guard the Eagle feather and not leave the spot it is in until the proper cleansing ceremony is performed.

Eagle feathers were awarded to Indian Braves, warriors and Chieftains for extreme acts of valor and bravery. These feathers were difficult to come by, and were earned one at a time.

Regardless of where or how an Indian Brave accumulated Eagle feathers, he was not allowed, according to Tribal Law, to wear them until he won them by a brave deed. He had to appear before the Tribal Council and tell or reenact his exploit. Witnesses were examined and, if in the eyes of the council, the deed was thought worthy, the Indian Brave was then allowed to wear the feathers in his hair or Indian Headdress or Indian War Bonnet.

An Indian would rather part with his horse or tepee, than to lose his Eagle feathers. To do so would be dishonor in the eyes of his Tribe. Many of the old American Indian Chiefs had won enough honors to wear a double-trailed bonnet that dragged the ground. Only the great and important men of the Tribes had the right to wear the double-trailed Indian War Bonnets.

During the “Four Sacred Rituals”, American Indians wear or hold Eagle feathers. The “Flag Song” has its earliest origins during the period when some Indian Nations would honor the Eagle feather staffs of leaders from different other bands of Indian Nations.

A dance intribute to eagles Photo credit ~consumed-shadows

Under both U.S. and Canadian law, a permit is required from official governmental conservation authorities of anyone to possess an Eagle feather legally. Native American Indians acquiring Bald and Golden Eagle feathers must use them for traditional ceremonies or teaching purposes.

Under normal circumstances, it is illegal to use, sell or possess Eagle feathers. Anyone possessing an Eagle feather without a federal permit can face stiff fines and imprisonment.

The American Indian holds the Eagle in the highest regard, and has a true "heart and soul desire" to keep it flying healthy and free for many generations to come.

“Prophesy says that it is time to share some of the sacred traditions of our culture. The four colors of man will be coming together to unite and heal. Creator has given different gifts and responsibilities to each of the four colors. Ours is to help preserve Earth for all the children. Time is running out. It’s time to act.” — Indigenous Spiritual Leaders of the Americas


Responses to "Significance of the Eagle, Feather, Native Headdress"

  1. Anonymous says:

    I thank The Indiginous People for letting all the 4 colors learn some of there treditions. Learning about others cultures is a healing and should be honored and kept.

  2. Anonymous says:


  3. When I was a child I did not see eagles because of DDT...Now I see them, though not frequently enough, along the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers in PA and NJ (USA) I feel blessed to witness their come back. I also live near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary , PA where there is a rapture count each year.

  4. Tom Swinburne says:

    In Ireland we have the Travelling People who have a separate cultural identity to the rest of the population. We treat them similar to the way Americans and Canadians treat indigenous peoples in their country. They are second class people living on the edge of society. Health education employment is denied to them, they die younger than us and their outlook on life is reduced to squalor and reliance on charity. We keep them on halting sites far from where we live and we have a nostalgic view of them that is far from the truth.
    We need help as much as the settled people do in the states. I don't want to steal the Native culture from the states but we need help. Do you have any ideas.
    Tom Swinburne

  5. Since my childhood I love eagles, especially the bald eagle. Still today at the age of (nearly) 50 I am very impressed by the majestic of this wonderful bird! I'm sure, I have been an Indian in a former life.

  6. Laura says:

    Hello, Thank you for sharing this video and information about the Eagle. I have many different Native American friends; some Sioux, Lakota Sioux, Cherokee, Chippewa, Menominee, and Oneida...I have always been fascinated with Eagles and have learned from my Native friends about certain traditions of their Tribe by asking them questions with respect. To learn about such things, is an honor to me. I am only 3% Blackfoot Native American, and my triple Great Grandfather was full-blooded Blackfoot. I have been on a Spiritual journey my whole life, and have had a vision of a Headdress during prayer once; and also have felt the presence of my Father (from a past-life)wearing a Headdress and standing firmly in my living room with his arms crossed. Thank you for sharing. I love you, and have been praying for Justice for your People for many years. I am now 30 years old, but have gained knowledge, because the Great Spirit has allowed it. A'ho!

  7. Unknown says:

    Thank you for compiling this video and accompanying it with Robbie's music. So inspiring!

  8. Where my partner and I live in cape jervis south Australia we are blessed with Eagles daily. It's very special when the entire family of two parents and their two young fly overhead, always keeping an eye on our chooks lol. Majestic and magnificent! Thank you for the storytelling.

  9. Unknown says:

    I enjoy everything on this page! Thank you for sharing this beauty with the rest of us!

  10. Unknown says:

    Thank you for sharing your traditions and culture with the world. Be Blessed.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thank You. I have seen some of these things in real life, Putting these things together in a video takes me home, back to when I was a child. The things that I saw alone in my travels on horseback, the things only mother earth could provide, since my parents chose the road of alcohol. My whole life I have always felt outside the group as if nobody understands the connection of all living things, it pulls you and calls out your name, whether it be a bird, tree, dog, horse, flower, all of it. At a young age you don't understand it and no one was there to explain it to you, so you put it in the back of your head and try to fit in with what is considered the norm. You do the things that society shows you, you go to work, get married, have children and do all the things that are expected of you but still it calls to you, " I don't mean I hear voices" but a calling to get back to my roots, Mother Nature or Mother Earth, it leaves a whole in your heart. Thanks for letting me write this hear, I hope you understand. Renee Roepstorff aka Joan

  12. Anonymous says:

    we will now hang our eagle feather high. Thank you so much for passing on your wisdom

  13. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous, it begins w/one person who cares such as yourself. An ordinary person w/a hearing heart & courage to act when treatment of a people is wrong. No race was formed by Father Creator to be "second class", but rather each has a high gift and purpose in this earth for the benefit of all mankind. A people know when your heart is genuine and honest about their culture, arts, regalia and overall well being. Heal any remnant of prejudice wherever your developing leadershipn role may lead.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I am lucky enough to see bald eagles almost every day. I wish everyone had the opportunity to see them in the wild. I live on the ocean in beautiful Washington State. The Chinook people locally still use and celebrate their traditions on their native lands that's awesome.

  15. Unknown says:

    Beautiful video, thank you for reminding us of who we are, part of mother earth. May be not take her for granted and take care of her.

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