The Eagle | Indigenous Symbolism 

Eagle has varying meanings across the Pacific Northwest. Each tribe, clan, and family can have a distinct and unique association with Eagle. Generally, the Eagle symbolizes power, intelligence, and vision throughout most Pacific Northwest Indigenous cultures.

All Indigenous symbols and crests have significant cultural and historical associations. Many of these symbols can represent the stories, traits, and values that hold a special significance to Indigenous Peoples. In retail jewellery, these symbols still hold significance but aren’t held to the same cultural standard. Regardless, we believe learning more about the beauty and depth of these legends brings more pleasure to the wearer. 

Eagle is a particularly popular legend in Indigenous art. Eagle is often the key to communicating and representing many parts of spirituality. In particular, Eagle feathers and down are used to symbolize good luck, peace, friendship, and a welcoming presence.  

Depictions of The Eagle In Indigenous Art

The Pacific Northwest has an abundant Eagle population. Not only is this a popular symbol in Indignoeous art and jewellery, but the Eagle is also one of the most dominant birds in this region. Oftentimes, you’ll find Eagle on totem poles, ceremonial staffs, and other items used for shamanic rituals. 

The most distinct part of the Eagle design is its beak. In Canadian First Nations art, Eagle’s beak has a prominent curve that typically curls downward towards its body. Eagle is also often depicted with ovoid eyes and split U feathers. Other details an artist may add are Eagle’s sharp talons, and its wings and tail feathers. Eagle may also be depicted with Salmon, one of its favourite foods. Indigenous art often includes details like this within the scene to complete the whole story. 

Eagle Vs. Raven and Thunderbird

Eagle acts as the messenger of the people whereas Raven is the messenger of the Creator. These two birds act as alter egos to each other and are often close companions. In Indigenous art and jewellery, you can distinguish Eagle from Raven by looking at the prominence of the beak. 

Silver Eagle pendant. Picture is meant to show design characteristics Indigenous Eagle's beak. Beak is curved inward towards it's body. Wings are outstretched to form the teardrop pendant shape.

A Thunderbird is a giant supernatural bird. To Nuu-chach-nulth, Thunderbird is a bird/man hybrid. In Indigenous art and jewellery, Thunderbird is usually depicted with more distinctive features than Eagle, and often includes prominent ears or “horns” unlike Eagle. 

Circle offset pendant with Indigenous Thunderbird in the design. This picture is meant to show the difference between the Eagle and Thunderbird designs. Thunderbird is distinguished by it's long "mohawk" in this design.

Thunderbird pendant. Notice how this design includes both the curved beak and a tall "mohawk"?

The Eagle Symbolism 

The First Nation’s Eagle is known as “the master of skies” and holds great significance within art. As a whole, Eagle signifies power, intelligence, and vision. The wings of an Eagle signify balance and cooperation between the masculine and feminine. Both sides of gender must work together in harmony to achieve greatness. 

Eagle often sends messages back to the Creator. If a prayer needed to be answered immediately, an eagle feather would be held up to the sky. And if an Eagle was spotted during prayer, it would signal that the Creator would accept it.  

In nature, Eagle is renowned for its excellent hunting skills and superior vision. Eagle’s vision refers to both its eyesight and figurative vision. As an animal with very high intellect, many cultures throughout the world view Eagle as the symbol of dreams and freedom. 

The Eagle In Northwest Coast Cultures

Eagles are distinguished and prominent crests among Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit, and Heiltsuk tribes. In nature, Eagle is also a powerful hunter. Among many tribes, Eagle clan families are incredibly prominent and often considered very powerful. Eagle chiefs are considered to be some of the most powerful leaders. 

Eagles are also incredibly sacred creatures. Feathers depicted in Indigenous art are often Eagle feathers. They are used in various ceremonies and often have healing powers. Eagle feathers are heavily used in ceremonies and practices. The feathers would emit power and would allow the holder to speak with honesty from the heart. 

Browse our amazing collection of eagle ringseagle pendantseagle bracelets, eagle earrings, eagle brooches and pins, eagle watches, eagle men’s Jewellery, and much more.

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