What Is the Symbolic Meaning of a Feather in Native American Culture?

In Native American culture, the feather symbolized a number of things including strength, trust, honor, wisdom and freedom. Native Americans proudly displayed feathers in headpieces and wardrobes, or had the image tattooed on their bodies.

A Native American received a feather for an act of bravery, such as protecting the tribe or tribesmen from an enemy or animal attack. Upon returning from the hunt or defense, the tribesmen recounted their story in front of the tribal court. Native Americans believed receiving a feather from the head of the tribe was one of the most honorable experiences. Once received, the feather got displayed in the receiver's home or worn out in public at all times. Native Americans treated the feather as if it were the U.S. flag and never let the feather touch the ground.

The most valuable and important of all feathers were those from a Golden or Bald eagle as Native American culture belief held that eagles had a connection to the heavens.Tribes felt eagles were powerful medicine animals and banned their killing. Native American legend stipulated that whoever ate the meat of an eagle immediately transformed into a monster. Some tribes such as those from the Plains states required the feathers be plucked from a live eagle only.