Iroquois symbols and meanings

Iroquois symbols and meanings DEFAULT

Publication Details

The tree of peace: Symbolic and spiritual values of the white pine

Schroeder, H.W.


In proceedings of the White Pine Symposium (p. ), Sept. , , Duluth, MN.


The original meaning of the word "spirit" (i.e. breath or wind) suggests an experience in which one feels touched or moved by something that can be felt but cannot be seen or grasped. The experience of spirit is often depicted through the use of symbols. Symbolism allows a concrete object, such as a tree, to represent an experience that is intangible and hard to describe. Trees have been important spiritual symbols in many human cultures. Evergreens often symbolize immortality and eternal life because they retain their leaves throughout the winter. To the Iroquois people, the white pine is a symbol of the Great Peace that united their separate nations into an enduring League. The Peace Tree is related to the Tree of Light, a central symbol in Iroquois cosmology. Similar mythological trees are found in European traditions, including the Norse World Tree and the medieval Christian Tree of Life. The World Tree symbolizes the unity of all life, and the struggle of order and growth against chaos and disintegration. The white pine is thus linked to one of the most universal spiritual symbols of the human species.


Schroeder, H.W. The tree of peace: Symbolic and spiritual values of the white pine. In proceedings of the White Pine Symposium (p. ), Sept. , , Duluth, MN.

Last updated on: October 11,


Answer and Explanation: The eagle in the Iroquois Constitution is a symbol of mutual protection; the eagle was believed to be a guardian that warned of danger and placing it

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Similarly, what are some symbols from the Iroquois Constitution?


  • A cluster of arrows. Recognized from the creation story the cluster of arrows is a symbol of unity for the Haudenosaunee.
  • Eagle. Said to be a messenger to the Creator the eagle is the protector of peace.
  • White Pine Tree/ Great Tree of Peace.
  • Four White Roots.
  • Long house.
  • Circle.
  • Sky World.
  • Turtle.

Also Know, what is the purpose of the first paragraph of this section of the Iroquois Constitution? to describe the meaning of the shell strings to describe the consequences of disobeying one's tribe to describe the traditions of the Lords to describe the history of each tribe in the Five Nations.

One may also ask, what does the tree of great peace represent in the Iroquois Constitution?

The Tree of Peace is a symbol of unity among the Five Nations of the Iroquois people, and its place within the Iroquois Constitution lends permanence to their bonds. Taken together, the fire and the tree symbolize the peaceful union that the Peacemaker brokered among the Iroquois people.

What behavior does the Constitution demand of a Lord of the Iroquois Confederacy?

10 Cards in this Set

how many nations are in the Iroquois nation5 nations
what does the great tree symbolizeit symbolizes why the Iroquois made the document for peace.
what type of behavior does the constitution demand for a lord of the Iroquoisthe lord must be loyal to the constitution and must be honorable
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Official Symbolism

A large bunch of shell strings, in the making of which the Five Nations Confederate Lords have equally contributed, shall symbolize the completeness of the union and certify the pledge of the nations represented by the Confederate Lords of the Mohawk, the Oneida, the Onondaga, the Cayuga and the Senecca, that all are united and formed into one body or union called the Union of the Great Law, which they have established.

A bunch of shell strings is to be the symbol of the council fire of the Five Nations Confederacy. And the Lord whom the council of Fire Keepers shall appoint to speak for them in opening the council shall hold the strands of shells in his hands when speaking. When he finishes speaking he shall deposit the strings on an elevated place (or pole) so that all the assembled Lords and the people may see it and know that the council is open and in progress.

When the council adjourns the Lord who has been appointed by his comrade Lords to close it shall take the strands of shells in his hands and address the assembled Lords. Thus will the council adjourn until such time and place as appointed by the council. Then shall the shell strings be placed in a place for safekeeping.

Every five years the Five Nations Confederate Lords and the people shall assemble together and shall ask one another if their minds are still in the same spirit of unity for the Great Binding Law and if any of the Five Nations shall not pledge continuance and steadfastness to the pledge of unity then the Great Binding Law shall dissolve.

Five strings of shell tied together as one shall represent the Five Nations. Each string shall represent one territory and the whole a completely united territory known as the Five Nations Confederate territory.

Five arrows shall be bound together very strong and each arrow shall represent one nation. As the five arrows are strongly bound this shall symbolize the complete union of the nations. Thus are the Five Nations united completely and enfolded together, united into one head, one body and one mind. Therefore they shall labor, legislate and council together for the interest of future generations.

The Lords of the Confederacy shall eat together from one bowl the feast of cooked beaver's tail. While they are eating they are to use no sharp utensils for if they should they might accidentally cut one another and bloodshed would follow. All measures must be taken to prevent the spilling of blood in any way.

There are now the Five Nations Confederate Lords standing with joined hands in a circle. This signifies and provides that should any one of the Confederate Lords leave the council and this Confederacy his crown of deer's horns, the emblem of his Lordship title, together with his birthright, shall lodge on the arms of the Union Lords whose hands are so joined. He forfeits his title and the crown falls from his brow but it shall remain in the Confederacy.

A further meaning of this is that if any time any one of the Confederate Lords choose to submit to the law of a foreign people he is no longer in but out of the Confederacy, and persons of this class shall be called "They have alienated themselves." Likewise such persons who submit to laws of foreign nations shall forfeit all birthrights and claims on the Five Nations Confederacy and territory.

You, the Five Nations Confederate Lords, be firm so that if a tree falls on your joined arms it shall not separate or weaken your hold. So shall the strength of the union be preserved.

A bunch of wampum shells on strings, three spans of the hand in length, the upper half of the bunch being white and the lower half black, and formed from equal contributions of the men of the Five Nations, shall be a token that the men have combined themselves into one head, one body and one thought, and it shall also symbolize their ratification of the peace pact of the Confederacy, whereby the Lords of the Five Nations have established the Great Peace.

The white portion of the shell strings represent the women and the black portion the men. The black portion, furthermore, is a token of power and authority vested in the men of the Five Nations.

This string of wampum vests the people with the right to correct their erring Lords. In case a part or all the Lords pursue a course not vouched for by the people and heed not the third warning of their women relatives, then the matter shall be taken to the General Council of the women of the Five Nations. If the Lords notified and warned three times fail to heed, then the case falls into the hands of the men of the Five Nations. The War Chiefs shall then, by right of such power and authority, enter the open concil to warn the Lord or Lords to return from the wrong course. If the Lords heed the warning they shall say, "we will reply tomorrow." If then an answer is returned in favor of justice and in accord with this Great Law, then the Lords shall individualy pledge themselves again by again furnishing the necessary shells for the pledge. Then shall the War Chief or Chiefs exhort the Lords urging them to be just and true.

Should it happen that the Lords refuse to heed the third warning, then two courses are open: either the men may decide in their council to depose the Lord or Lords or to club them to death with war clubs. Should they in their council decide to take the first course the War Chief shall address the Lord or Lords, saying: "Since you the Lords of the Five Nations have refused to return to the procedure of the Constitution, we now declare your seats vacant, we take off your horns, the token of your Lordship, and others shall be chosen and installed in your seats, therefore vacate your seats."

Should the men in their council adopt the second course, the War Chief shall order his men to enter the council, to take positions beside the Lords, sitting bewteen them wherever possible. When this is accomplished the War Chief holding in his outstretched hand a bunch of black wampum strings shall say to the erring Lords: "So now, Lords of the Five United Nations, harken to these last words from your men. You have not heeded the warnings of the women relatives, you have not heeded the warnings of the General Council of women and you have not heeded the warnings of the men of the nations, all urging you to return to the right course of action. Since you are determined to resist and to withhold justice from your people there is only one course for us to adopt." At this point the War Chief shall let drop the bunch of black wampum and the men shall spring to their feet and club the erring Lords to death. Any erring Lord may submit before the War Chief lets fall the black wampum. Then his execution is withheld.

The black wampum here used symbolizes that the power to execute is buried but that it may be raised up again by the men. It is buried but when occasion arises they may pull it up and derive their power and authority to act as here described.

A broad dark belt of wampum of thirty-eight rows, having a white heart in the center, on either side of which are two white squares all connected with the heart by white rows of beads shall be the emblem of the unity of the Five Nations.

The first of the squares on the left represents the Mohawk nation and its territory; the second square on the left and the one near the heart, represents the Oneida nation and its territory; the white heart in the middle represents the Onondaga nation and its territory, and it also means that the heart of the Five Nations is single in its loyalty to the Great Peace, that the Great Peace is lodged in the heart (meaning the Onondaga Lords), and that the Council Fire is to burn there for the Five Nations, and further, it means that the authority is given to advance the cause of peace whereby hostile nations out of the Confederacy shall cease warfare; the white square to the right of the heart represents the Cayuga nation and its territory and the fourth and last white square represents the Seneca nation and its territory.

White shall here symbolize that no evil or jealous thoughts shall creep into the minds of the Lords while in Council under the Great Peace. White, the emblem of peace, love, charity and equity surrounds and guards the Five Nations.

Should a great calamity threaten the generations rising and living of the Five United Nations, then he who is able to climb to the top of the Tree of the Great Long Leaves may do so. When, then, he reaches the top of the tree he shall look about in all directions, and, should he see that evil things indeed are approaching, then he shall call to the people of the Five United Nations assembled beneath the Tree of the Great Long Leaves and say: " A calamity threatens your happiness."

Then shall the Lords convene in council and discuss the impending evil.

When all the truths relating to the trouble shall be fully known and found to be truths, then shall the people seek out a Tree of Ka-hon-ka-ah-go-nah, and when they shall find it they shall assemble their heads together and lodge for a time between its roots. Then, their labors being finished, they may hope for happiness for many days after.

When the Confederate Council of the Five Nations declares for a reading of the belts of shell calling to mind these laws, they shall provide for the reader a specially made mat woven of the fibers of wild hemp. The mat shall not be used again, for such formality is called the honoring of the importance of the law.

Should two sons of opposite sides of the council fire agree in a desire to hear the reciting of the laws of the Great Peace and so refresh their memories in the way ordained by the founder of the Confederacy, they shall notify Adodarho. He then shall consult with five of his coactive Lords and they in turn shall consult with their eight brethern. Then should they decide to accede to the request of the two sons from opposite sides of the Council Fire, Adodarho shall send messengers to notify the Chief Lords of each of the Five Nations. Then they shall despatch their War Chiefs to notify their brother and cousin Lords of the meeting and its time and place.

When all have come and have assembled, Adodarhoh, in conjunction with his cousin Lords, shall appoint one Lord who shall repeat the laws of the Great Peace. Then shall they announce who they have chosen to repeat the laws of the Great Peace to the two sons. Then shall the chosen one repeat the laws of the Great Peace.

At the ceremony of the installation of Lords if there is only one expert speaker and singer of the law and the Pacification Hymn to stand at the council fire, then when this speaker and singer has finished addressing one side of the fire he shall go to the oposite side and reply to his own speech and song. He shall thus act for both sidesa of the fire until the entire ceremony has been completed. Such a speaker and singer shall be termed the "Two Faced" because he speaks and sings for both sides of the fire.

I, Dekanawida, and the Union Lords, now uproot the tallest pine tree and into the cavity thereby made we cast all weapons of war. Into the depths of the earth, down into the deep underearth currents of water flowing to unknown regions we cast all the weapons of strife. We bury them from sight and we plant again the tree. Thus shall the Great Peace be established and hostilities shall no longer be known between the Five Nations but peace to the United People.



~Symbolizes Abundance, Stability, Positive Energy, Hope, Happiness and Peace~

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Zuni believe that the Sun symbolizes abundance, continuity, stability, positive energy, hope, happiness and peace. The Zuni tribe associates it with warmth which made life and growth possible and believes it brings playfulness and joy to children along with good fortune and prosperity to families.  Praying to the Sun  was a critical part of Zuni culture.

~Symbolizes an abundance and manifestation~


To Native Americans, the Bison or American Buffalo was a symbol of sacred life and abundance. The American Buffalo or Bison is a symbol of abundance and manifestation. The lesson learned by the Lakota is that one does not have to struggle to survive. This is especially true if the right action is joined by the right prayer. By learning to appropriately unite the mundane with the divine, all that will be needed will be provided.

~Symbolizes Protection, Courage, Physical Strength and Leadership~

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Native American Indians are  deeply spiritual people and they communicate their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Bear Symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. Animals were drawn as symbols which were taken as spiritual guides and stood for the qualities and traits of the animal that the symbol represented. The Bear symbol was important as it represented a protector and symbolized courage, physical strength and leadership. Bears are strong, agile, and quick. The black bear and the Grizzly were native to North America. The meaning of the Bear Symbol was to signify a good omen and convey authority. The bear was a very important animal symbol. Some tribe would also have two warriors known as the Grizzly Bears. These warriors would be the first to charge at the enemies in battle. Native American bird and animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide.

Some Indians believed that it was possible to draw power from a bear by dreaming of one, by killing and eating part of one or by even touching a bear. These actions made a warrior invincible. Because of the Indians' beliefs that the bear had spiritual power, wearing a bear claw necklace meant protection and good health to the Indian wearing it. The Abenaki tribe believe that the stars of the Big Dipper are the Great Bear (Kchi-awasos). According to Abenaki mythology the Great Bear is chased every night by three hunters.  The Great Bear is killed every fall and his blood drips to earth turning the leaves brown but he is reborn every spring.

Many Native American cultures feature Skinwalkers or a similar concept in which a shaman or Medicine Man may, according to cultural tradition, take on an animal form such as a bear. 


~Signifies Life Force and Strength of a Warriors Heart~

This arrow is called the lifeline or heart line. The heartline begins at the mouth where breath gives life and points to the soul, or spirit, where faith and inner strength preside. The following symbol depicts the heartline through the image of a bear. The heartline is an arrow going from its head to the heart and shows the Indian warrior's heart is strong like the bears. Similar images can be found depicting the heartline in other animals.

~Symbolizes our journey through life~

According to O'odham oral history, the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices individuals make in the journey through life. In the middle of the "maze," a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, the individual has a final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon choices made and the path taken, before the Sun God greets us, blesses us and passes us into the next world.




The Medicine Wheel, sometimes known as the Sacred Hoop, has been used by generations of various Native American tribes for health and healing. It embodies the Four Directions, as well as Father Sky, Mother Earth, and Spirit Tree—all of which symbolize dimensions of health and the cycles of life.

The Medicine Wheel can take many different forms. It can be an artwork such as artifact or painting, or it can be a physical construction on the land. Hundreds or even thousands of Medicine Wheels have been built on Native lands in North America over the last several centuries.

Meanings of the Four Directions

Different tribes interpret the Medicine Wheel differently. Each of the Four Directions (East, South, West, and North) is typically represented by a distinctive color, such as black, red, yellow, and white, which for some stands for the human races. The Directions can also represent:

  • Stages of life: birth, youth, adult (or elder), death

  • Seasons of the year: spring, summer, winter, fall

  • Aspects of life: spiritual, emotional, intellectual, physical

  • Elements of nature: fire (or sun), air, water, and earth

  • Animals: Eagle, Bear, Wolf, Buffalo and many others

  • Ceremonial plants: tobacco, sweet grass, sage, cedar

~Symbolizes Direction, Protection, Strength and Leadership~

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The meaning of the Wolf symbol is to symbolize direction and leadership and the wolf symbol also embodied both protection and destruction. The Wolf symbol signified strength, endurance, Instinct linked with intelligence, family values and believed to give guidance in dreams and meditation. Many American Indians considered themselves descended from wolves, and thus worshiped the wolf as both a god and an ancestor. According to the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first creature to experience death. Some tribes believed that the timber wolves, howling at the moon, were spiritual beings that could speak to the gods and impart magical powers.

 ~ Symbolizes Invincibility~

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Dakota and Lakota decoration often use the symbol of spider or spider’s web. It is believed that any warrior adorned with spider symbol is invincible to arrows and bullets. Just as the arrow or bullet can pass through a spider’s web, leaving it relatively intact, it was believed that the projectile would pass through the brave warrior and leave him unharmed. Also, since the spider’s web is difficult to see unless it is wet, the wearer of spider symbol is given a type of invisibility.

In Lakota mythology, spider is both feared and revered. On one side – fear – the trickster is transformed from one-time god of wisdom. On the other side – reverence – Iktomi is credited with giving all creatures their names, shapes, personality and identity. Since he ran out of names before naming himself, he ended up as spider.

For some, spider’s legs represent the four winds of change and the four directions on the medicine wheel. Other tribes credit the gift of fire to spider.

~ Symbolizes fertility, healing and re-birth~



The Snake symbol has different meanings in many Native American tribes. In the Pueblo tribe snakes are symbolic of fertility, in the Ojibwa culture the snake symbolizes healing and due to its ability to shed its skin other traditions associate the snake with re-birth. All of these symbolize the snake as a benign creature but many ancient cultures believe that the snake represents the Underworld and is strongly associated with serpent, which is basically a large snake, although usually depicted as a monster.

In Lakota Sioux and Blackfoot mythology, Unhcegila is a snake or serpent-like monster that was responsible for many unexplained disappearances and deaths. She could swallow a human in one piece or squash him with her weight. Uncegila was a massive reptile that crawl very fast underground and moved even faster on the land. The touch of Unhcegila slime made flesh rot away and caused the ground she passed to become infertile.

Snake Myth and Legend: The Avanyu symbol is one of the many snake-like deities that figure in the mythology of some Native American tribes, notably the Pueblo. The Avanyu symbol represented the storm bringer and was connected with lightning, thunderstorms and the guardian of water.

There is a legend that in the beginning of the world winged snakes or serpents reigned upon the earth and snake symbols depict this event. There is a symbolic relationship between the sun and the snake because life remains in the snake, until sunset even though the snake might be cut into a dozen parts. The Hopi Indians consider the snake to be in close communication with the Earth Spirit. Therefore, at the time of their annual snake dance they send their prayers to the Earth Spirit by first specially sanctifying large numbers of snakes and then liberating them to return to the earth with the prayers of the tribe.

~Symbolizes Good Omen and Authority~

 The Bear symbol was important as it represented a protector and symbolized authority, physical strength and leadership. The tracks of a predator, such as a bear track, are used to indicate a direction and are also symbols of leadership. The meaning of the Bear Track symbol was to signify a good omen and convey authority. Native American bird and animal symbols and totems are believed to represent the physical form of a spirit helper and guide.

~Symbolizes Bringers of Messages and Symbols of Change~

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 Bird symbols are very special to the Native Americans, their ability to soar above the clouds, perhaps to the heavens, and their sense of freedom inspired many. The many birds of North America are featured as bird symbols, many having different meanings to different tribes. However, because of their amazing power of flight, many are revered as bringers of messages and symbols of change. They include song birds, water birds and birds of prey. Birds often symbolized light-hearted freedom and the Feathers have many spiritual & ritual uses. 

Turkeys play a variety of roles in the folklore of different Native American tribes. In some legends, Turkey is portrayed as a wily, overly-proud trickster character. In others, he is shy and elusive. In parts of Mexico and the American Southwest, turkeys were domesticated and kept as food animals by some tribes, and their role in stories from these tribes is similar to chicken stories from Europe, with the birds mimicking the concerns and activities of human farmers. The Akimel O'odham (Pima) people consider the turkey a rain spirit, and have folk beliefs about turkeys being able to predict the weather. 

 Numerous Native American Indian legends also deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navajo tribe believe that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water. This why the feathers of the turkey have no color - it was all washed out.

 The meaning of the Crow symbol signified wisdom and some tribes believed that the Crow had the power to talk and was therefore considered to be one of the wisest of birds.

The Native Americans consider the bald eagle and the golden eagle to be sacred. Bird symbols depicting these birds of prey were common in many tribes. The meaning of the Eagle symbol was to signify courage, wisdom and strength and its purpose was as the messenger to the Creator and as such was revered amongst the Bird Symbols.

 The eagle was believed to carry prayers to the Great Spirit in the Spirit World and also had a special connection with visions. Eagle feathers were highly significant to the Native American Indians and the bones of eagles were used to make the whistles and flutes used at religious ceremonies and rituals. It was a custom to hold an eagle feather aloft when saying a prayer and during special council meetings eagle feathers were held as an assurance that the person was telling the truth. Eagle feathers also held a connection to the Great spirit. The eagle had the ability to live in the realm of spirit, and yet remain connected and balanced within the realm of Earth. The eagle is therefore often connected with balance. Eagle Myth: The Abenaki solar deity 'Kisosen' meaning "Sun-Bringer" was symbolized as an eagle whose wings opened to create the day and whose wings closed to create the night.


The Hawk symbol is closely associated with forces such as rain, wind, thunder, and lightning and sometimes referred to as a 'thunderer', as do many of the bird symbols. The hawk is also believed to continuously fly fight, protecting people from the evil spirits of the air.

The hummingbird generally symbolizes joy and playfulness, as well as adaptability. Additional symbolic meanings are:

  • Lightness of being, enjoyment of life

  • Being more present

  • Independence

  • Bringing playfulness and joy in your life

  • Lifting up negativity

  • Swiftness, ability to respond quickly

  • Resiliency, being able to travel great distances tirelessly

 Owls were believed to be messengers from beyond the grave and Owl symbols signified warnings to people who had broken tribal taboos - these bird symbols signified a bad omen.

The Raven symbol signifies that danger has passed and that good luck would follow.

The Water Bird is a symbol of the renewal of life, rainy seasons, rivers, distant travel, distant vision & wisdom. It is often also referred to as the Peyote Bird because the Water Bird plays a significant part in the Native American Indian Church Peyote meetings and, in fact, since the early ’s has been the symbol of the NAC.

The Peyote/Water Bird is not a Southwest tradition, but one of the Plains Indians. The Peyote Bird is connected with lightning, thunder and visions. Those who dream of the thunder beings will become Heyokas, those who do things backwards, upside down, or opposite. This is a Lakota way of being. It is part of the medicine of the Heyoka to remind us that we should not take ourselves too seriously – that’s why Heyoka is often translated as the “sacred clown”.

hogan (/ˈhoʊɡɑːn/ or /ˈhoʊɡən/; from Navajo hooghan [hoːɣan]) is the primary, traditional dwelling of the Navajo people. Other traditional structures include the summer shelter, the underground home, and the sweat house. A hogan can be round, cone-shaped, multi-sided, or square; with or without internal posts; timber or stone walls and packed with earth in varying amounts or a bark roof for a summer house,[1]with the door facing east to welcome the rising sun for wealth and good fortune.

~Symbolized as the most iconic and powerful of all birds~ 

 Bird symbols, myths and legends: The Thunderbird symbol is one of the most iconic Indian signs. The name of the Thunderbird name originates from the belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind and the sound was viewed by some tribes as an omen of war. The Native Americans believed that the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes.

The meaning of the Thunderbird as a Native American symbol varies according to the tribe. The Thunderbird symbol is viewed by the sacred eye of the beholder: The prime people of North America who held a vision of glory and power concerning this Spirit Bird.

Described as a supernatural being, the enormous bird was a symbol of power and strength that protected humans from evil spirits. It was called the Thunderbird because the flapping of its powerful wings sounded like thunder, and lightning would shoot out of its eyes. The Thunderbirds brought rain and storms, which could be good or bad. Good – when the rain was needed or bad when the rain came with destructive strong winds, floods, and fires caused by lightning.

~ Spiritual Vision ~


Meaning of the Eye of a Medicine Man Symbol

Native American Indians were a deeply spiritual people and they communicated their history, thoughts, ideas and dreams from generation to generation through Symbols and Signs such as the Eye of a Medicine Man symbol. Native American symbols are geometric portrayals of celestial bodies, natural phenomena and animal designs. The meaning of the Eye of a Medicine Man symbol is a very powerful symbol. A Medicine Man, or Shaman, was believed to have magical powers of Spiritual Healing and of seeing into the future. The outer lines of the symbol represent the four corners of the Universe - North, South, East and West of the physical world. The inner lines represent the Spirit world, which the Medicine Man had knowledge of. The center circle represents the eye of the Medicine Man and his spiritual vision.


~Symbolized freedom and direction~

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Bird tracks symbolizes light-hearted freedom. The tracks of any animal or bird were used to indicate a direction.

~Symbolized carriers of prayers and messages to the Great Spirit~

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Prayer Feathers

Native Americans believed prayers and messages were carried to the Great Spirit on the wings of eagles and other fine birds.

Prayer feathers, either single or bundled are used by an individual to offer a prayer to the Great Spirit. The feathers carry your words, thoughts and feelings to the Great Spirit. Each time you look at your prayer feather, your prayers are again sent in your behalf to the Great Spirit in the Heavens.

Prayer feathers may be used for smudging or cleansing with smoke. The smoke is fanned in the 6 directions East, West, North, South, Earth and Sky cleansing an object, person or thought to the Great Spirit. Sage, cedar, sweet grass, even incense can be used for smudging.

Some personal rituals include singing while praying. It is believed singing is one way to speak with the grandfathers as well as the Great Spirit.

WIPACI (Thank you) Moonwalker

The symbolic meaning of different feathers and the purpose that they were used for varied from tribe to tribe, however, in all tribes certain feathers were revered. The meaning of the feathers symbol signified honor & connected the user with the Creator. Decorated feathers were sometimes attached to sacred tobacco pipes during important ceremonies and used as ‘smudge’ feathers, used to direct the purifying smoke of burning tobacco, cedar, sageor sweet grass in Smudging Rituals.

The feathers of the Red-tailed Hawk and the eagle are considered sacred to many Native Americans and are sometimes used in religious ceremonies and rituals. The feathers of brightly colored birds such as blue jays and cardinals were used for their medicine by spiritual leaders. The feathers of birds were highly esteemed for adornment and symbols of status. However, owl feathers symbolized death or prophesy.

Numerous Native American Indian legends deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navajo tribe believe that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water. This why the feathers of the wild turkey have no color - it was all washed out.

~Symbolizes Transformation, Beauty and Messenger~

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The meaning of the Butterfly symbol signifies transformation as the ugly caterpillar changes into the beautiful butterfly. The butterfly is also believed to be a messenger from the spirit world. The message the butterfly brings depends their color. A black butterfly indicates bad news or illness, yellow brings hope and guidance, brown signifies important news, red signifies an important event and white signifies good luck. A butterfly who lands on your shoulder brings you comfort. According to Native American legends and myths of some tribes the Butterfly played a part in their Creation myth. According to Native American legends and myths of the Pueblo tribes of southeastern Arizona and northwest Mexico the Butterfly played a part in their Creation myth. The Creator took the most beautiful colors of all living things and placed them into a magical bag. He have the magic bag to the children and when it was opened colored butterflies flew out singing. The children were enchanted by the butterflies but the song birds were so jealous that the Creator took away the ability to sing from the butterfly.

To tribes such as the Blackfoot, the butterfly symbol is associated with sleep and dreams. They believe that dreams are brought to us in sleep by a butterfly. Women embroider the sign of a butterfly on a small piece of buckskin and tie it to a baby’s hair or on the baby's clothes to encourage the child to go to sleep.

~Symbolizes Warmth, Protection and Endurance~


Meanings iroquois symbols and

Tree of Peace

For the style of wooden pole that represents a desire for peace, see Peace pole.

The Iroquois Tree of Peace finds its roots in a man named Dekanawida, the peace-giver. The legends surrounding his place amongst the Iroquois (the Haudenosaunee) is based in his role in creating the Five Nations Confederacy, which consisted of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, and his place as a cultural hero to the Haudenosaunee Nation, commonly known in Western culture as "Iroquois". The official title of the confederacy is, Kayanerenh-kowa (the Great Peace)[1] as described by Paul A. Wallace, "it is also known as Kanonsionni (the Long-House), a term that describes both its geographical extent and its constitutional form".[1] The myths and legends surrounding Dekanawida have the roots in the oral histories that followed many Native American tribes throughout their histories.

A political reality, with mythic proportions, the association of Dekanawida and the Tree of Peace is central to the Haudenosaunee. Dekanawida, on his travels to bring the warring Nations together, talked only of peace, friendship, and unity. As Barbara Graymont states, "Dekanawida's ideas and actions were noticeably separating him from his people. The Wyandots could not understand a man who loved peace more than war."[2] The Great Peace associated with Dekanawida came with three parts

  • The Good Word, which is righteousness in action, bringing justice for all.
  • Health, which is a sound mind in a sound body, bringing peace on Earth.
  • Power, which is the establishment of civil authority, bringing with it the increase in spiritual power in keeping with will of the Master of Life.[3]

The creation of the Five Nations was given a symbol by Dekanawida that would symbolize the newly accepted peace and unity of the five nations. The symbol chosen for the League of the Five Nations was the great white pine tree, "the tree of the Great Long Leaves"[4]

The tree had four symbolic roots, the Great White Roots of Peace, spreading north, east, south, and west. If any other nation ever wished to join the League, it would have to follow the White Roots of Peace to the source and take shelter beneath the tree. Atop the tree, he placed an eagle to scream out a warning at the approach of danger. He symbolically planted the tree in the land of the Onondagas, the place of the Grre, the confederate lords, or peace chiefs, would sit beneath it and be caretakers of the Great Peace.[4]

This tree of peace became the symbol of solitude among the chiefs. The creation of the tree of peace figuratively gave the chiefs the ability never to die, "because their chiefly titles would be passed down to their successors forever. In this way, the League of Nations would always be kept alive".[4]

The Tree of Peace has its roots in the creation of the League of Five Nations, but its place within the Haudenosaunee culture is crucial to its role in the continuation of its existence to this day. As A. C. Parker states, "The Tree of Peace is an important symbol of peace in Iroquois tradition and in the historical record of diplomacy between the Iroquois and Westerners. Weapons would be buried under a tree to seal a peace agreement. A tree might even be uprooted to create a cavity for the weapons. The replanted tree on top would become a tree of peace."[5] This concept of creating a new Tree of Peace is rooted in the tradition created by Dekanawida's initial ceremony for the Tree of Peace. The roots will stretch in all directions and it is upon these roots our future brothers and sisters must forge their own peace and continue to the path we have created. As Barbara Graymont states,

This transformation of the historical account shows the extent to which these events had taken on a sacred character for the Iroquois. The exact details were not nearly as important to them as testifying to the authenticity of their confederacy and the significance of what their ancestors had done for them. In establishing unity and preserving their nationhood, the ancestors had provided for all time a purpose and a way of life for the people of the Extended lodge.[6]

Its characteristic bundles of five needles became the symbol of the Five Nations joined together as one. According to Haudenosaunee tradition, the Great Law of Peace ended the ancient cycle of enmity and continuous conflict between the separate tribes and united them into the Iroquois Confederacy that made them into the most powerful force in North America until the rapid expansion of European colonization in the 18th century.[5]


  1. ^ abPaul A. Wallace. " Dekanawida (The Heavenly Messenger) " Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Vol 1 (University of Toronto, Toronto, )
  2. ^Barbara Graymont. The Iroquois (Infobase Publishing, New York, ) page 13
  3. ^Barbara Graymont. The Iroquois (Infobase Publishing, New York, ) page 17
  4. ^ abcBarbara Graymont. The Iroquois (Infobase Publishing, New York, ) page 21
  5. ^ abAC Parker. “Certain Iroquois Tree Myths and Symbols” American Anthropologist. Vol. 14
  6. ^Barbara Graymont. The Iroquois (Infobase Publishing, New York, ) page 23
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