American Eagle & Native American Indian
the Eagle returns, we will again be a great nation." — Jonas
Shawandase, Spanish American War Veteran & Tribal Elder of the
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
The wings of an Eagle represent the balance needed between male
and female, each one dependent upon the strengths and abilities
of the other.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
— Indigenous Spiritual Leaders of the Americas