Animal Totems

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Animal Totems

Animal Totems. Discover facts and information about the culture of Native American Indians and the meanings of the Animal Totems used by different tribes

  • Meanings of Animal Totems and Native American Indian tribes
  • Definition and Meanings of Animal Totems
  • Meanings of Animal Totems
  • Meanings of Animal Totems depicted on the Northwest Indian Totem Poles
  • Pictures of Animal Totems
  • Interesting facts and information about Animal Totems and Native American Indians
Native American Culture
Native American Symbols
Native Indian Tribes Index

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



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.

Chart of Animal Totems and Meanings

Animal Totems & Meanings


Alligator - Emotional understanding, cleansing &
Spiritual Healing

  Animal Totems & Meanings Badger

Badger - Bold, out-going, good communicator

  Animal Totems & Meanings Bat

Bat - Death and Rebirth and Guardian of the Night

  Animal Totems & Meanings Beaver

Beaver - Creative and Artistic ability, builder, resourcefulness and determination

  Animals Totem & Meaning Bear

Bear - Strength, Solitude, Motherhood, Teaching and to learn Humility Meaning of Bear

  Animal Totems & Meanings Bobcat

Bobcat - Independence, Clear Vision and self reliance

  Animal Totems & Meanings Bumblebee

Bumblebee - Honesty, Pure Thinking, Willingness and Drive

  Animal Totems & Meanings Buffalo

Buffalo - A manifestation of the Great Spirit, Knowledge, Generosity and abundance

  Animal Totems & Meanings Butterfly

Butterfly - Represents transformation and the ability to accept change

  Animal Totems & Meanings Cougar

Cougar - Power, leadership, humility and encourages responsibility for life

  Animals Totem & Meaning Cow

Cow - Represents Motherhood, contentment, fertility and nourishment

  Animal Totems & Meanings Crocodile

Crocodile - Strong will, Emotional understanding, cleansing and healing

  Animal Totems & Meanings Coyote

Coyote - Helps you recognize your own mistakes, Stealth, Clowning and Humor

  Animal Totems & Meanings Crow

Crow - Find balance living in present, release past beliefs, Skill and Cunning

  Animal Totems & Meanings Deer

Deer - Healing, Gentleness, kindness & compassion

  Animal Totems & Meanings Dolphin

Dolphin - Interpreting dreams, Change, Wisdom, Communication,

  Animals Totem & Meaning Dog

Dog - Guidance, Loyalty and trust

  Animal Totems & Meanings Dogfish

Dogfish - Persistence and Strength A Born Leader

  Animal Totems & Meanings Dove

Dove - Love, Gentleness and Kindness

  Animal Totems & Meanings Dragonfly

Dragonfly - Dreams, Illusions, Ever-changing Life

  Animal Totems & Meanings Eagle

Eagle - Great Strength, courage Leadership and Prestige

  Animals Totem & Meaning Elk

Elk - Bravery, agility and independence

  Animal Totems & Meanings Falcon

The Falcon - Soul Healing, Speed and Movement

  Animal Totems & Meanings Fox

The Fox - Cunning, Stealth and Feminine Courage

  Animal Totems & Meanings Frog

Frog - Spring & New Life, Sensitivity, Communicator, Stability

  Animal Totems & Meanings Grizzly Bear

The Grizzly Bear - Strength and Ferocity

  Animal Totems & Meanings Halibut

The Halibut - Life protector, Strength and Stability

  Animal Totems & Meanings Hawk

The Hawk - Guardianship, Strength, Far Sighted

  Animals Totem & Meaning Heron

The Heron - Patience, Graceful and Easy Going

  Animal Totems & Meanings Horse

Horse - Energy, Power, Message carrier, communicates with other realms

  Animal Totems & Meanings Hummingbird

Hummingbird - Love, Beauty, Intelligence, Spirit Messenger and Stopper of Time

  Animal Totems & Meanings Killer Whale

The Killer Whale - Seas and the Underworld, Traveler & Guardian and Symbol of Good

  Animals Totem & Meaning Kingfisher

The Kingfisher - Luck, Patience, Speed and Agility

  Animal Totems & Meanings Lizard

The Lizard - Awareness, Conservation, subconscious hopes and fears

  Animal Totems & Meanings Moose

The Moose - Headstrong, Balance and Longevity

  Animal Totems & Meanings Mouse

Mouse - Observant qualities and diligence

  Animal Totems & Meanings Otter

The Otter - Feminine Power, Playful, Trusting, Inquisitive, Bright, Loyal and speedy

  Animals Totem & Meaning Owl

The Owl - Wisdom, silent and swift, ability to see things normally, a creature of the night

  Animal Totems & Meanings Raccoon

Raccoon - Curiosity, Creativity, Dexterity, Disguise

  Animal Totems & Meanings Raven

Raven - Creation & Knowledge - Bringer of the Light

  Animal Totems & Meanings Porcupine

Porcupine - Safety and Protection

  Animal Totems & Meanings Salmon

Salmon - Persistence, Dependability and Renewal - A Provider

  Animal Totems & Meanings Seal

The Seal - Bright, Inquisitive, Organized

  Animal Totems & Meanings Shark

The Shark - Remorselessness, Survival, Adaptability

  Animals Totem & Meaning Snake

The Snake - Rebirth, Resurrection, Initiation and Transformation

  Animal Totems & Meanings Spider

The Spider - Creativity, weaving the web of fate

  Animal Totems & Meanings Squirrel

Squirrel - Planning and Preparation

  Animals Totem & Meaning Turtle

The Turtle - Self-Reliance, Tenacity, Slow Progress

  Animal Totems & Meanings Weasel

The Weasel - Encourages you to develop your sense of inner hearing and to pay attention to your inner voice

  Animal Totems & Meanings Whale

The Whale - Ancient Knowledge, Awareness

  Animals Totem & Meaning Wolf

The Wolf - Intelligence & Leadership - Strong Sense of Family


Chart of Animal Totems and Meanings


Northwest Indian Animal Totems

  • Native American Northwest Indian Poles and Posts
  • Materials used to create Animal Totems
  • History of the Northwest Indian Animal Totems and their purpose
  • Words and terminology associated with Northwest Indian Animal Totems
  • Examples of the Totem Pole
  • Native American Northwest Indian art and culture


Pictures and Videos of Native Americans
Discover the vast selection of pictures which relate to the History of Native Americans and illustrate many decorations and tattoos used by American Indians. The pictures show the clothing, tattoos, war paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational history resource for kids and children of all ages and a means to study their interpretation. We have included pictures to accompany the main topic of this section - Native American Culture. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index.


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