A Native American spirit animal, or animal totem, can be sacred to a single person, family or entire tribe. The totem animal acts as a guardian spirit, staying with an individual for the duration of his life. All Native American animal totems are found in North America; these include bears, foxes, wolves, deer, bison and elk.
Native American spirituality honors and respects animals as fellow inhabitants of the earth. It recognizes that, like human beings, animals possess spiritual energy. Native Americans who have discovered their spirit guides may incorporate images of the animals in their dress and in decorations around their homes. Some Native Americans wear feathers and specially designed body paint during ceremonies to honor their animal guides. This symbolizes the deep connection between humans and nature, and the spirituality that links all living things.
Native American spirit animals are not determined through astrology, quizzes or birth date. Animal guides choose people, and not the other way around, according to Native beliefs. Practitioners of Native spiritual traditions discover their guides by paying attention to the lessons that the world offers, focusing on how to connect to the Creator through other members of creation and trying to gain wisdom through interactions with other spiritual beings. Through a humble relationship with the guide, a person can come to know more about himself.
Some animals are associated with particular qualities or powers in Native American folklore; for example, dogs are symbolic of loyalty, while a coyote signifies a wily trickster. However, those who are seeking a guide do not assign meaning to that guide; rather, they remain open to receiving the lesson or message that the guide brings. Those who have found an animal spirit guide then educate themselves as much as possible about their animal's natural history.