In the month of November, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving to commemorate the pilgrims' first thanksgiving celebration. However, it is also National Native American month, and the native tribes of North America are known for being animal lovers. In their culture, our wild friends represent important aspects of life and are seen as spiritual guides. The bond with animals also strengthens the Native American connection to nature. One of the many ways this respect is expressed is through the art of totem poles. Read on and find out what the colorful and carefully crafted animal symbols of the totem poles represent.
Meaning: Popular ideas about the wolf being a "loner" or vicious are misconceptions. In Native American culture, the wolf is celebrated for its loyalty and spirit. The wolf is also said to have a deep understanding of human communication, allowing it to comfort those who are sick or in need.
Meaning: What a turtle represents varies between tribes, but the animal is always a bringer of life. Tribes based in the desert see the turtle as a symbol of water, while others see the critter as a partner of Mother Earth and the power of creation.
A PAW UP
Meaning: The bear is greatly respected in Native American culture for its similarities to humans. In fact, it's believed that it was this animal who taught the first humans how to collect food and hunt. Because of this relationship, the bear is said to have an understanding of when its death is coming at the hand of hunters.
I DON'T GIVE A DAM
Meaning: Like bears, beavers are respected for their dedication to a fairly human lifestyle that focuses on family and craftsmanship. Unlike the bear, beavers don't care for interacting with humans and are more concerned with protecting their creations.
Meaning: Octopi are natural chameleons, with the ability to change color and texture. Because of these skills, the animals are seen as supernatural by some Native Americans. The Octopus represents the great power of the sea, and they are known to be helpers to those in trouble on the water.
HERE COMES THE BOOM
Meaning: Thunderbirds always appear at the top of a totem pole, as a sign of respect. These mythical animals are known for being powerful and wise, with the ability to read human thought. Thunderbirds get their name from the Native American tribal belief that it is these majestic animals who create thunder and lightning.
Meaning: The Otter is seen as a mischievous force, but a harmless one, unlike the raven. This playful animal is celebrated by Native Americans for its balance of work and play. Otters are looked to as a force of laughter, empathy and friendliness.
FIN OF WISDOM
Meaning: Whales, especially the Orca (also known as "Killer Whales"), are greatly revered in many Native American tribes. There are numerous tales of these animals bringing assistance to the tribe's chief or people in need. Aside from these stories, whales are generally looked up to for their bravery.
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Animal: Mountain Goat
Meaning: Many confuse this symbol for a devil, but the simple mountain goat isn't looking for trouble — simply the right path. This animal is known for being both stubborn and determined, continually working at a goal until he gets the desired results. This demeanor offers many valuable lessons for those trying to find their way.