Bird Symbolism In Native American Art

Native Americans have a deep connection to and respect for the natural world, and their reverence for nature deeply influences their art. Eagles are particularly revered for their ability to fly so close to the heavens, carrying the prayers of the people to the spirit world. Feathers of all birds, and especially eagles, are an iconic design in Native American jewelry and art.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Birds are integral to Native American culture – they are connected to the spiritual because of their ability to move throughout the earthly and heavenly (sky) realms…thus their feathers, attached to clothing or other items can impart particular meaning.”

 

 Kevin Naranjo Etched Bald Eagle Seed Pot
Kevin Naranjo (Santa Clara) Etched Bald Eagle Seed Pot - Explore this and more in the Clay Pottery Collection

Because of this importance, many Native artists choose to use bird or feather imagery in their art, pottery, or jewelry.

 

Chris Charley Sterling Silver Feather Bracelet
Chris Charley (Navajo) Sterling Silver Feather Bracelet - Explore this and more in our Bracelet Collection

The Indian Pueblo Store’s own Andrew Thomas (Diné) explains that the eagle is the only bird known that can carry prayers for balance, harmony, and health. Owls can be seen as both a good and bad omen, but either way can be seen as a beautiful reference to the bird kingdom.

Revered in Pueblo culture, the eagle is the guardian of the sky, a messenger to the spirit world and a powerful symbol of strength and protection. Eagle feathers are often attached to masks, rattles, prayer sticks and other objects used in traditional ceremonies.

 

Dominic Arquero Pueblo Pattern Rawhide Feather Earrings
Dominic Arquero (Cochiti) Pueblo Pattern Rawhide Feather Earrings - Explore these earrings and more in our Earring Collection 

The dragonfly is an important animal for the Pueblo people of New Mexico and other tribes of the Southwest. These special creatures are seen as messengers, speaking to the thunder and clouds to bring moisture and blessings to the people. They are also associated with strength and healing.

In some Native American cultures, a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the nectar of life. It's a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible, and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances. They are really spectacular birds, and have a lot to teach a person about self-discovery and healing.

De Haven Solimon Chaffins Hummingbird Acrylic Painting
De Haven Solimon Chaffins (Laguna & Zuni) Hummingbird Acrylic Painting - Explore this and more in our Paintings Collection

The thunderbird is a symbol closely associated with Pueblo culture. Though the history of the design is not clear, it is seen as a symbol of strength, fertility and abundance. Santo Domingo artists are known for reviving and popularizing the thunderbird design in the early 1900s. When traditional materials were unavailable during the Great Depression, they turned to repurposed and found materials such as car batteries, records, and household plastics to create colorful necklaces with a thunderbird motif. Tourists were captivated by these handmade pieces and today thunderbird jewelry is a celebrated style among Santo Domingo artists and collectors of Native American art.

Don Dewa Sunface and Feather Pendant
Don Dewa (Zuni) Sunface and Feather Pendant - Explore this and more in our Pendants Collection

The rain parrot is a popular design motif in Pueblo pottery, particularly that of Acoma Pueblo, representing the Pueblo people’s reverence for rain and water. According to Acoma legend, the birds led people to water, and Pueblo people see them as special creatures who can mediate with the spirit world. Rain parrots are generally represented as a triangular beak with swirling tail feathers, though stylized and contemporary versions are also common.

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At Indian Pueblo Store, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft. Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer.

At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer.

 

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