Animal Totems

Native Indian Tribe

What are Animal Totems?
Definition of Animal Totems: What are Animal Totems and what are the meanings of Animal Totems? Native American Animal Totems are emblems of tribes or groups of people such as a family or clan. Animal totems or emblems, also reflect the lineage of a tribe, reminding them of their ancestry or their mythical past and creation myths.

The word totem is derived from the Ojibwe (Chippewa) word 'odoodem' meaning "his kinship group". Many tribes also hold the belief that each of their people have animal totems that are spirit guides who sometimes appear in dreams or Vision Quests in the form of Power Animals and their dream meanings. These animal totems, or spirit guides walk through life with them, teaching and guiding them and in some instances, protecting them.

Animal Totems and their Meanings
Animal Totems that also included supernatural creatures of mythology and legend all had a special meaning, characteristic and significance. Animal Totems are Animal Spirits that can be called upon, by an individual or a tribe, for its special powers to serve as a guardian or protector when facing adversity. Animal Totems and their meanings are detailed on our Animal Totems chart.

Animal Totems - Northwest Indian Totem Poles
Animal Totems are particularly associated with the Totem Poles that are created by six tribes of Northwest Indians, the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. The names of the Northwest Tribes who carved Animal Totems on Totem Poles were the Tlingit, Haida, Bella Coola, Kwakiutl, Tsimshian and the West Coast tribes. Animal Totems and symbols are carved and painted on to long wooden poles that represented the emblems of clans or families and relate to their belief in Totemism. Animal totems were believed to have spiritual significance and watched over the family, clan, or tribe symbolizing their guardian spirit or helper. Animal Totems were not worshipped but they inspired immense respect. Refer to Totem Pole Art and Design for additional facts and information about the design of Totem Poles and their symbolism.

Animal Totems - Animism
The idea and concept behind Totemism is that people have a spiritual connection or kinship with creatures or objects in nature, making the practice very similar to Animism. Animism is a belief based on the spiritual idea that the universe, and all natural objects within the universe, have souls or spirits. It is believed that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, trees, rocks and all natural forces. The concepts of Totemism, Animism, Ritualism and Shamanism should all be considered to gain a full understanding of the religious beliefs of the Native American tribes that included Animal totems.

Animal Totems - Meanings and Significance
Each one of the animal totems had a special meaning, characteristics and significance. The following chart details the common Animal totems used by Native Indian Tribes across North America. The meanings of each of the Animal Totems are also detailed although there might be some regional and tribal variations to their symbolism and meaning.

  • Alligator - Emotional understanding, cleansing & Spiritual Healing
  • Badger - Bold, out-going, good communicator
  • Bat - Death and Rebirth and Guardian of the Night
  • Beaver - Creative and Artistic ability, builder, resourcefulness and determination
  • Bear - Strength, Solitude, Motherhood, Teaching and to learn Humility Meaning of Bear
  • Bobcat - Independence, Clear Vision and self reliance
  • Bumblebee - Honesty, Pure Thinking, Willingness and Drive
  • Buffalo - A manifestation of the Great Spirit, Knowledge, Generosity and abundance
  • Butterfly - Represents transformation and the ability to accept change
  • Cougar - Power, leadership, humility and encourages responsibility for life
  • Cow - Represents Motherhood, contentment, fertility and nourishment
  • Crocodile - Strong will, Emotional understanding, cleansing and healing
  • Coyote - Helps you recognize your own mistakes, Stealth, Clowning and Humor
  • Crow - Find balance living in present, release past beliefs, Skill and Cunning
  • Deer - Healing, Gentleness, kindness & compassion
  • Dolphin - Interpreting dreams, Change, Wisdom, Communication
  • Dog - Guidance, Loyalty and trust
  • Dogfish - Persistence and Strength A Born Leader
  • Dove - Love, Gentleness and Kindness
  • Dragonfly - Dreams, Illusions, Ever-changing Life
  • Eagle - Great Strength, courage Leadership and Prestige
  • Elk - Bravery, agility and independence
  • The Falcon - Soul Healing, Speed and Movement
  • The Fox - Cunning, Stealth and Feminine Courage
  • Frog - Spring & New Life, Sensitivity, Communicator, Stability
  • The Grizzly Bear - Strength and Ferocity
  • The Halibut - Life protector, Strength and Stability
  • The Hawk - Guardianship, Strength, Far Sighted
  • The Heron - Patience, Graceful and Easy Going
  • Horse - Energy, Power, Message carrier, communicates with other realms
  • Hummingbird - Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger and Stopper of Time
  • The Killer Whale - Seas and the Underworld, Traveler & Guardian and Symbol of Good
  • The Kingfisher - Luck, Patience, Speed and Agility
  • The Lizard - Awareness, Conservation, subconscious hopes and fears
  • The Moose - Headstrong, Balance and Longevity
  • Mouse - Observant qualities and diligence
  • The Otter - Feminine Power, Playful, Trusting, Inquisitive, Bright, Loyal and speedy
  • The Owl - Wisdom, silent and swift, ability to see things normally, a creature of the night
  • Raccoon - Curiosity, Creativity, Dexterity, Disguise
  • Raven - Creation & Knowledge - Bringer of the Light
  • Porcupine - Safety and Protection
  • Salmon - Persistence, Dependability and Renewal - A Provider
  • Seal - Bright, Inquisitive, Organized
  • The Shark - Remorselessness, Survival, Adaptability
  • The Snake - Rebirth, Resurrection, Initiation and Transformation
  • The Spider - Creativity, weaving the web of fate
  • Squirrel - Planning and Preparation
  • The Turtle - Self-Reliance, Tenacity, Slow Progress
  • The Weasel - Encourages you to develop your sense of inner hearing and to pay attention to your inner voice
  • The Whale - Ancient Knowledge, Awareness
  • The Wolf - Intelligence & Leadership - Strong Sense of Family
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