What Are the Significance of Eagle Feathers in Native American Culture?

Native Americans assign special significance to eagle feathers in accordance with the view that eagles associate strongly with the heavens. Most Native American tribes in the United States equate eagles with celestial affiliations as eagles fly high in the sky and therefore close to the heavens. Native Americans honor eagles’ spirits by using eagle feathers in ceremonies and other special occasions.

To Native Americans, eagles and eagle feather bear certain representations. They symbolize laudable qualities and traits such as trust, strength, honor, wisdom, power and freedom. Receiving an eagle feather during ceremonies or from elders ranks high on the list of honors bestowed on tribe members. Men generally receive eagle feathers instead of women. To receive feathers, chiefs, warriors and braves perform exceptional tasks and heroic deeds. They might earn feathers through selfless acts of rescuing others from animals and fighting bravely during battles. Before allowed to wear feathers, men first recount their experiences in tribal courts. Upon approval from court officials, they add feathers to headdresses.

Men must provide the feathers with special care following receipt. They must not stow feathers in discreet locations, as doing so represents dishonor and lack of respect. In ceremonies called talking circles, eagle feathers act as microphones and only individuals holding feathers possess speaking rights.