54 Native American Symbols With Deep, Poetic Meanings

A list of all the native American symbols.


Daniella Urdinlaiz

Arrows symbolize protection and defense. An arrow facing to the left is meant to ward off evil. Meanwhile, an arrow facing to the right is meant as protection and an arrow facing down means peace.


An arrowhead is a sharpened tip that can be added to an arrow. They are made of stone and can penetrate the skin. Arrowheads symbolize alertness.

Bear & Bearprints

Animals act as spiritual guides because they have traits admired by humans. That is why bears symbolize courage and physical strength. It is a good omen that conveys authority. Meanwhile, bear prints represent leadership.

Bird & Birdprints

Birds symbolize light-hearted freedom. The tracks are meant to indicate a specific direction.


Brothers symbolize two people who are bound together and have shared a journey through life. The line connecting their feet represents their equality.


Butterflies symbolize transformation. However, the color of the butterfly provides further information. A black butterfly signifies bad news or illness, yellow signifies hope and guidance, brown signifies important news, red signifies an important event, and white signifies good luck.


Cacti symbolize warmth, protection, and endurance. It is a symbol of maternal love because it can endure and thrive in harsh conditions, just like a mother’s unconditional love. However a cactus could also, more literally, signify the desert.


Camp is meant to indicate an Indian village consisting of tepees. These teepees were constructed from wooden poles and animal hide. They could be set up quickly and dismantled quickly, making it easy for the Native Americans to travel.


Camp fires are meant to indicate a temporary overnight stop.


The rain, lightening, and clouds in this image symbolize change, renewal, and fertility. The lightening symbol is closely associated to the Thunderbird, which is a powerful spirit.


Coyotes are a holy creature. However, they symbolize a trickster deity. This spirit is mischievous, selfish, deceitful, and greedy.


Crosses symbolize the Earth’s forces, their origin, and the manner in which they work.


Crows are a symbol of wisdom because they are one of the smartest birds in existence. Some believed that the animal even had the ability to speak.

Dancing Man

The dancer indicates that a celebration or ritual dance has taken place. Those ceremonies are an important part of the Native American culture.

Days & Nights

These markings symbolize the passage of time. Since the Native Americans did not have any clocks, they would have to tell time based on the positioning of the sun.

Dead People

When symbols appear upside down, it symbolizes death. Therefore, this image would indicate the death of a man and a woman.

Deer & Deerprints

Deer symbolize gentleness, safety, prosperity, and shelter. Their tracks can be used as a tool to indicate where food has been found. The direction they are facing indicates the direction of the deer.


Dragonflies symbolize happiness, speed, and purity. This is because dragonflies live in water for the first year of their lives as nymphs and then metamorphose into dragonflies.


Drums were an important part of ceremonies. They were meant as a way to communicate with the Great Spirit.

Eagle & Eagle Feathers

Eagles are a sacred bird. They are a symbol of courage, wisdom, and strength. Their feathers were used during prayer and during special council meetings where they were held as an assurance that the person was telling the truth.


This symbol was meant to indicate that an area had been set aside for a ceremonial dance or ritual.


The circle surrounding the family represents family ties, closeness, and protection. The circle has no starting point or ending point of separation, which means it cannot be broken.


The Kokopelli fertility symbol depicts him hunchbacked, dancing, and playing the flute. In a legend told by Hopi Native Indians, Kokopelli carried unborn children in the sack on his back and distributed them to women.


Fire represents cleansing and renewal because out of the ashes of fire, there is new growth. Fire was used during ceremonies to cleanse sacred items such as drums, shakers, and pipes.

The Four Stages Of Man

This symbolizes the milestones in a person’s life. Their birth and infancy, their youth and adolescence, their maturity in middle age, and their wisdom in their old age.

Gila Monster

This symbol represents preservation and survival because The Gila Monster is believed to be able to go a year or more without food or water.

The Great Spirit

The Great Spirit was the principal deity in the religion of many Native American people. The symbol represents the eye of the higher power watching over humankind.

Hand Or Handprint

A hand represents success in hand to hand combat. It can also symbolize human life in general.


This symbol represents balance because Native Americans believed in striking balance, peace, and harmony among all humans, animals, and plant life.


This symbol represents the life force of an animal. When it reaches from the head to the heart of a bear, it symbolizes a warrior having a heart as strong as a bear.


This symbol was meant to represent the return of a warrior. Ceremonies and homecoming dances were performed whenever warriors returned home alive.


Hoof prints represented the number of horses that were taken on a raid. It was a way of conveying important information to fellow tribe members.


This symbol of an eight pointed star represents the four cardinal points of north, south, east and west and their connection to the outermost points on the horizon where the sun passes through the year. It represents wishing and hoping.


This picture of a horse was meant to signify a journey back home.


A lake symbol was drawn to signify the presence of a body of water. It was meant as a helpful guide for anyone who was in need of water.


This symbol was commonly painted on the faces of Native Americans as war paint. It was meant to add power and speed to the warrior and it was painted in red, like the Thunderbird.

Many Fish

This symbol indicated a body of water housing food. It was meant to help the survival of their people. Fish were caught by hunters and prepared by women, who had it smoked in order to preserve it for the winter months.

The Eye Of A Medicine Man

A medicine man was thought to have magical healing powers and could see into the future. The outer lines of the symbol represent the four corners of the Universe. The inner lines represent the Spirit world. The center circle represents the eye of the Medicine Man and his spiritual vision.


The moon was the protector and guardian of the earth. However, it could also be drawn along with snow to indicate the winter or drawn with falling leaves to indicate autumn.

Morning Star

The morning star signifies the renewal of tradition and resurrection of the heroes of the past. It is a sign of courage and purity of spirit.


This symbol was either meant to indicate the geography of an area or it was meant to announce that a journey had been made across a mountain range.


A broken arrow represents peace. It represents an end to the war. It means the fighting is going to end and the arrows are going to be put down.


Arrows are portrayed in the symbol of Protection because they were the Native American’s main form of defense. The circle wrapped around the two arrows signifies family ties, closeness, and protection


Rain represents renewal, fertility, and change. It can also represent plentiful crops.


This is a malevolent creature of the Underworld. It is a monster who devoured his enemies. Whenever a serpent is seen, it represents death.


A shaman acts as a medium between the visible world and the spirit world. They practice rituals to ensure good health, bountiful harvests, successful hunts, and good weather.


Like the symbol for brothers, the sisters’ symbol represents two people who are bound together and have shared journey through life. The line connecting their feet represents their equality.


The star symbol was used to describe a famous event that occurred in 1833, the Leonid meteor shower. The Native Americans considered it the year the stars fell.


The sun is the provider of light and heat, which is what causes crops to flourish, which is why it symbolizes growth. Its symbol depicts the cardinal directions, north, south, east, and west.

Circle Symbols (Four Elements, Water, Earth, Air, Sun)

The circle symbols represents the cycle of the seasons. It represents the cycle of life to death to rebirth. And it represents the four elements.


When the sound of thunder was heard, Native Americans believed it was the omen of war. They believed that the beating of the Firebird’s wings caused the thunder and stirred the wind.


Turtles can live up to 150 years, which is why they symbolize good health and a long life. The shell of the turtle represents perseverance and protection.


Since arrows were the main form of attack and defense by Native Americans, two arrows were the symbol of war. They were meant to mimic the arrows being thrown between two warriors.


This symbol was meant to guide others toward drinking water. It is meant to signify the flow of life from the Earth and to chart the features of a particular area.

Did we forget any Native American symbols? If so, leave them in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

Illustrator, designer, and all-around creative rover for Thought Catalog

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