Native American Symbol – Whirling Log (Swastika)


Native American Symbol Whirling Log

The design of the Whirling Logs is similar in appearance to the symbol of horror associated with the Nazis.

Both are swastikas.

Swastika is Sanskrit meaning “well-being”. Throughout most of history, it has been associated with order and stability. The unfortunate association of the swastika with Hitler understandably makes some people uncomfortable when they see a similar symbol on Native American baskets, rugs and jewelry.

To distinguish Whirling Logs from Hitler’s Swastika, some try to make a distinction between which direction the figure appears to rotate, clockwise or counter-clockwise. But if you look at a whirling log on the outside of a Native American basket and it is whirling counter-clockwise, that same design will be whirling clockwise on the inside. Similarly with a woven rug – each side of the rug would show the symbol whirling a different way. So that is not distinction.

Native American Basket with Whirling Log Symbol

The distinction is in the intent, the context, the long history of the symbol. Read more about the history of the swastika.

Wikipedia has an excellent article with illustrations with more about the history and use of the symbol of the swastika with a note

after learning of the Nazi association, the Navajo discontinued use of the symbol

^ Dottie Indyke. “The History of an Ancient Human Symbol.” April 4, 2005. originally from The Wingspread Collector’s Guide to Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, Volume 15.

Whirling Logs are used in Navajo sand paintings during a healing or other type of ceremony. A sand painting is supposed to be a temporary piece of art which is destroyed after the ceremony is over. However sand painting designs are also used in prints and framed paintings, rugs and on jewelry.

The Whirling Log symbol is associated with a narrative involving a man (sometimes called the Culture Hero) who takes a journey down the San Juan River in a hollowed out log canoe. During his adventure, he encounters whirlpools and a special event where the San Juan River meets the Colorado River.  There he comes upon a whirling cross with Yei figures seated on the cross. From the yeis he learns much knowledge which he takes back to his people.

(See a future post about Yeis)

Since World War II, the use of the Whirling Logs in Native American artifacts has been confined mainly to rugs. Jewelry with the symbol is usually from before 1940.

Vintage Native American Pawn Bracelet with Whirling Log

Be sure to read this excellent article on Kim & Pat Messier’s Blog

The Use of the Swastika Symbol in American Indian Art


97 thoughts on “Native American Symbol – Whirling Log (Swastika)

  1. Thank you for this explanation. Do you find that there is a hesitancy to purchase jewelry, rugs or baskets that have a whirling log image or are you able to sell these pieces? I have a basket with the whirling log image that I can not display, because seeing it upset a friend. I value it as a piece of Indian art, but I am sorry it has a terrible association.

    • We’ve never had an item in our store with that symbol. I just answered the question because I knew about the symbol from our business dealings.

      I’ve been around people when they see the symbol on Native American items and it seems to go one of two ways. If a person is not aware of the fact that the symbol was used by Native Americans (and others) for many years prior to Hitler’s use of it, then they are repulsed by it, and yes, they would be hesitant to buy or wear something with that symbol on it. And who could blame a person, even if THEY knew what the back story was, it is not as if they would explain it to every person that would happen to see it. The people who are NOT hesitant to purchase are collectors who know the significance of the symbol in relation to Native American culture and the fact that it is usually on older pieces. We have seen a few older pawn items with it and they bring a premium price.

      One final note – there are contemporary artists who still use the symbol in their new rug weaving (and perhaps basket weaving) because they live near the rivers where the story takes place and it is a very strong part of their culture. However, I have never seen a contemporary use of the symbol on Native American jewelry. Thanks for the good question and your interest !

      • I have a ring with a swastika on the top with arrows down the side. It is silver and do not the authenticity of it. Is there a place I could attach a picture of it for information about the ring. It was my father’s.

      • My mother-in-law has an Indian necklace made from what looks like turquoise beads and has a Swastika on it is there any way that i would be able to find out what it is she has? Her mother just passed away and it was in her jewelry box pls. email me an if you can direct me to where i can get it looked at.

      • Your explanation was a relief. Today I found a ring among my belated mother’s things and I was shocked to see the swastika on an eagle’s breast on top of the ring. It, too, has arrows down the sides as described by someone else. And, found it interesting that the ring was made prior to 1940. Thank you.


      • I have a western saddle with this symbol that I would like to sale. Whould you know of a place that would be interested?

      • Okay, Thanks 🙂

        On Thu, May 19, 2016 at 7:21 AM, Native American Jewelry Tips wrote:

        > Catreas Mohr commented: “I have a western saddle with this symbol that I > would like to sale. Whould you know of a place that would be interested?” >

      • My friend was wearing a bracelet with the Native American Indians at an early greeting party with the Braves dressed up in full costume! It also looks like they are engaging in ceremony of some kind!

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  3. Hi, my name IS River and my favorite River glyph is the one resembling the greek key design. – also stands for waves.

    About the ‘whirling logs’ They are one and the same
    Whirling Logs / Swastika / Svastika / Wheel of Life

    Symbol of utmost importance to foundations of Various Asian Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, pre-columbian, Judaism, and even Christianity
    It’s one of the oldest symbols and is spread throughout the world.

    • They may look the same…but are hold two entirely different meanings. The Nazi’s stole this from Native Culture……per usual…and used it to represent their own evil.

      • It is not only Indigenous American L.Rodriguez. It is also an ancient Nordic/Germanic Rune. (Rune = ancient symbol/alphabet w/ amuletic properties). It is found all over the World – not only Turtle Island.

        Hitler was trying to ressurect pre-Christian Nordic religion.

        The Nazis were also interested in Tibet. (Based on an earlier German man’s invented fantasy theory about various ‘races’ & an ‘Aryan’ ‘Caucasoid’ race that supposedly originated in Tibet). It is also a Tibetan symbol as mentioned previously here.

        You are right that the Nazis *were* evil though & I do not think it meaningless that Hitler’s version was turned in the *opposite* direction. Since the original Nordic/Germanic Rune symbolises the Sun/Life (hence ‘peace’ also – when the opposite ‘war’ = the absence of Life).

        My mom is from Germany & family members of ours were murdered by the Nazis. However one should not malign the earlier symbols used by indigenous people all over the world inc. animist Germans (such as my grandmother – an herbwoman who preserved the ancient pre-Christian beliefs & practises of the Baltic region). xx



  6. Would you be interested in selling one of them and do you know anything about the vintage native American pawn bracelet with whirling log.

  7. Hello. I appreciate the discussion regarding the whirling log symbol. Thank you for that. It is an ancient symbol. I wonder if you could advise me on how to remove an old buckle from my belt to put on a new buckle. I have one shoe repair man in the neighborhood. Would he be able to help me with this or is there a better solution? Thanks for any help you may be able to give.

  8. Pingback: Whirling Logs Silver Turquoise Belt Buckle « Native American Jewelry Tips

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  10. I have a piece of jewelry I really need help with. I can send pics. I found it in my great great grandmother things after she passed. I have tried to research on it, and I believe it is a Native American whirling log, not a Nazi piece. I am of German heritage and was told my family owned bunkers that were taken over by Nazis during the war, but I am also of native American heritage and was told it could be from them too. Please I could really use some help with this. I need to know if it is worth anything, my father is in desperate need of serious help out of a poor situation. and this may be my only chance of helping him. This piece I have is hand engraved with the numbers 2460 I believe, I am scared to clean it but I think that’s what it says.

  11. Found huge Royston, mint condition stone, ss ring 4 sale today only. It has broken arrows, a lightening bolt and the Whirl. log symbol on both sides. found on edge of Nav. Res. in Arizona by a trader. It is bidding at 130.00 and will go up… What should i be paying if i want it to re-sale/ larger size and wider bezel. Stone is more green, light and carmal , wide matrix. Stunning stone. no visable hallmark on underside, but so primitive, may not be visable? THANX, TwoWorlds 🙂

  12. Thank you for covering the Swirling log design. I knew the facts from growing up in AZ. But I am writing an article on it, and I need citations for questionabl information.

  13. Very interesting post on the Swastika’s usage in Native American jewelry. I never realized this. I knew it was/is a commonly used symbol throughout Hinduism and Buddhism.

  14. I Have a antique silver cuff bracelet. That was my grandmothers. It has the swastika in the middle with some other design on the bracelet. I believe it was her mothers and then when i was given the larger cuff I was also given a much smaller cuff possibly for a child. It has similar arrows to the larger cuff but no swastika. I was wondering if anyone could give me more information about the pieces.

  15. I have a bracelet with the whirling log, along with other Native American symbols (bow and arrows and what looks like a two headed bird) . I’m trying to authenticate the silver cuff bracelet, but I’m having a hard time. Any help available would be appreciated! 🙂

    • why replace it when the symbol been used for hundreds an thousands of years. jus because nazi germany used it to represent world domination an superiority over all. i understand being sympathetic an empathise with what happened to the jewish people in neo-nazi germany back in ww2 but…….on this continent the meaning or representation is sacred in its own. and goes beyond just art.

  16. Hello Paula, My name is Tonya and I have a beaded Necklace that belonged to my grandmother’s sister. It is red with white swastika’s and arrows on it. My Question is are the southwest Indians the only ones that used this symbol in their art. I have Narragansett, Blackfeet and Cherokee ancestry. I don’t know if it was handed down to her or if she bought it as a souvenir.

    • The swastika has been found in cultures around the world, including in North America. In has been seen in particular, but not exclusively, in the Southwest region of the US, mainly on Navajo, Apache and Pueblo ceremonial and decorative objects. If you would like to send a photo of the necklace, contact me through the website and I’ll look at and post the photo.

      • My Grandmother was born in 1906 in St. Albans Vermont, almost to the border Quebec. As a baby she was given a seed bead ring with the whirling log design by a Native American (and according to my Father’s memory of the story) Chief.
        Her Mother or Grandmother was NA so perhaps that is why the gift.

        Have you heard of Tribes in the northeast using this symbol?

        Many thanks!

    • In New England a lot of the Indigenous nations adopted symbols & dress etc. later on from tribes in the West – due to so much culture having been destroyed & lost after the European settler conquest.

  17. I am so glad that I read this. I was wearing my bracelet today that was handed down to me and it has the whirling log symbol on it. A customer thought to comment, rather ignorantly, and call me a jew hater. yes that actually happened. I’m printing this out and carrying it with me to hand out every time I wear that bracelet LOL! Great post thank you 😉

  18. Thursday, August 8, 2013 9:57 AM
    Message starred
    Re: Jewelery Question
    Hide Details




    Michael Healer

    This message contains blocked images.
    Show ImagesOptions

    Thank you for your question about your Native American jewelry. Because we have a high volume of questions, I’ve put together a general response. Please ignore the portions that don’t apply to your situation.

    We answer questions about Native American items on our blog – photos are required to illustrate the post. Please send two or three medium sized photos of your item.

    We don’t do appraisals via email and photos. If you are selling your piece, refer to these articles:

    “Paula – What is my Squash Blossom Necklace worth?”

    “Do We Buy Native American Jewelry?”

    Native American Jewelry Blog
    Vintage Dooney & Bourke Blog

    From: Michael Healer
    Sent: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:51 AM
    Subject: Jewelery Question

    Hi, Paula,

    I have a silver and turquoise bracelet that I was told is from the 1920s or 1930s. Clearly a tourist piece (think Fred Harvey era). It has a whirling log in the center with single arrowheads on either side. The whirling log and arrowheads have small cabochon turquoise in their centers and are separate pieces that are cut and soldered onto the bracelet. The inside of the bracelet is stamped with the word “sterling,” and the initials “WW” above that. Also has arrows stamped in the bracelet itself. I’m certain it was originally designed as a ladies bracelet, but I have very small wrists for a man, so it fits me well.

    Any ideas how I might narrow down the age and maybe even find out who the maker was? I can send photos.

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  21. Hello,
    I have a silver turquoise swastika penant that would have gone on a necklace. Can I send a photo to you to see if it as old or collectable? It seems old…….

  22. I bought a rug from a traveler. He said it was from the 4 corners region. Its old. It has a larger mystic symbol of well being resembling the swastika. Its about 3×5.

  23. I just bought a brooch with several symbols on it,arrows,swastika,half moon sun bursts,and round sunburst.It is an inch and a half long,by 1 inch high,silver with a pin clasp on back.The center has a rather large pale green stone.I will send a photo and note to and I would love to know if this is rare and/or valuable. Thank You

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  25. I found an old original unknown Fred Harvey era locket witch has weird symbols and to open it at the head of the screw has swastika and when opened smells like a mint need help to find out value

  26. I have an American Indian beaded light-bulb sized ornament with the swastiker repeated several times in the pattern. I know it must be pre-WW2. It’s heavy …as if it is on a wooden [sock] darning ball covered with heavy satin and then beaded over. I see a listing (on google images) for a blue and white beaded light-bulb that looks similar. What tribe might it be from? How much is it worth?

  27. There are a lot of young jewelers putting the swastika on their jewelry and then showing it on Instagram with their tattoos or near-naked. In my view, the symbol was ruined. Let it go.

    • I understand why you feel this way Sarah (I had family on my mother’s side murdered by the Nazis) but please consider how much Indigenous Americans have lost to European settlers.

      Why should they then have to lose one of their most sacred symbols because of a crazy European.

      Sacred symbols used in Jewelry & other items are not about “fashion” for Native people & other indigenous people over the planet.

    • Please see the book ‘Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption?’

      It has history of the symbol worldwide & thoughts from various people; including Jews who support its use by indigenous people who are not neo-Nazis or anti-Semitic or white supremacist.

  28. I just saw a picture of a new ring with that design on a jewelry Instagram account I follow. I’m glad to know more of its positive history but I do feel that the symbol carries a negative connotation now so I’m surprised they would make jewelry like that and expect to sell it.

  29. Hi, this weekend is nice for me, since this occasion i am reading this
    impressive educational piece of writing here at my house.

  30. Like Gerry in 2010, I also have a ring with a swastika in the middle and horseshoe around it. There are arrows going down the sides with some sort of triangular design below them. Did you ever find out what this is or where it is from? Thank you!

  31. I acquired a Navajo blanket Approx 25-27 yrs ago, And lost rack of it until just recently. I have not been able to identify it, except that I bought it from and old man selling saddles on a street corner. It’s approx 31″x29″ in size and I can send a pics. It is tan red and black in color with two swirling red and blk logs on one end.

  32. I was recently given a “found” bracelet with many of these Native American symbols. It’s definitely sterling as its not drawn to magnets and it polished up quite nicely. It does not have a hallmark, but I would be interested to know the potential date of origin, as it has the whirling log on in, has the one inch gap in the back and it’s my suspicion that is was a Frank Harvey era bracelet. Is there somewhere I can send some pictures of it for your advise? Let me know and thanks so much.

  33. Pingback: Native American Healing Symbols

  34. I picked up what appears to be a native american basket while in Denver in 2014..the basket has a reverse swastika on both halves and a leather strap woven into the rim, probably to make it easier to open…10in across and in excellent condition.. i can send pictures..would like more info..

  35. The original owner of this ring passed in 1938 having aged just 21 years The small female silver ring features the whirling log logo with 4 prominant arrows pointing outwards. In the center is a double elipitical intersecting elongated ovals which appear eye-like. There are smaller long arrows that encircle the entire band with what appears to be two “C’s”. Did the Navajo sign pieces that were meant to be healing in nature prior to 1930 ?

  36. I have ring left to me by my mother in law. It is dark in color and appears to be tarnished silver. It has an arrow that runs through the center of the ring. It also has a small swastika on each side of the arrow shaft. wonder what meaning it holds and if it has value.

  37. Not all Indians stopped using the symbol: the Cuna of San Blas archipelago, Panama, have it on their flag (their province has autonomy status). I don’t understand why the Navajo discontinued using a traditional symbol of theirs and I think they were pressured by the U.S. government.

  38. The Nazi Swastika was used as a sacred solar symbol. It also represented order and creativity. Furthermore, the Nazi Swastika flag displayed both a left-handed and right handed Swastika to symbolise that Nature is a unity of opposites. Furthermore, the Nazi ideology was pantheistic like the animism of the Indian religions.

    • My mother is from Germany & came to the States as a Displaced Person via the Red Cross after surviving the Nazis – Arthur.

      I wrote about the Rune which symbolises the Sun/Life & animism above in response to another commenter.

      My grandmother who was raised in East Prussia near the Baltic (before moving to Berlin) was an animist Krauterfrau (= herbwoman) born in the 1890s & had knowledge/beliefs/practises passed down through thousands of years – from pre-Christian times.

      As she raised me w/ the same ancient beliefs/practises I feel qualified to tell you that Hitler’s Nazi version of ancient Nordic/Germanic beliefs were largely a fabricated fantasy; w/ only a few isolated elements of traditional belief & practise & symbol thrown in.

      It was theatre & that was all. He/the Nazis used propaganda in everything they did & our ancient beliefs did not escape that ravaging evil. That does not mean that his fake pagentry was an accurate representation of pre-Christian pre-Roman Nordic/Germanic/Celtic beliefs.

  39. My mother collected antique dolls. She had a few of what were known as Door of Hope dolls from a Christian mission in China in the 1920s. The dolls were dressed in traditional pre-Revolutionary clothing by girls who had been saved from sex slavery. A couple of the dolls had multi-layers of clothing much of which has the swastika design woven into the silk. I had always been told that it was a sign of the four winds.

    • It is an important symbol in Japan also Teddie. It is seen on textiles as you’ve described. I forgot what it means to Japanese people.

      I wrote of an interesting book that discusses every aspect of this symbol as it was used across the world (historical / cultural / social / controversial etc.) & various people’s feelings about it. You may find it interesting. It’s titled ‘Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption?’ I recall the author saying he is Jewish in an interview several years ago (on WNYC whose archive can be accessed & listened to as a podcast online via their website).

  40. This is such an important post.

    Here is a book that is on my (mad long) reading list. It is worth it to look for the author’s interviews about it online. The one I heard a few years ago was very interesting; as he explains how he came to write the book. (It was on WNYC which is New York City’s public radio station & you can find the segment podcast on its website. Type WNYC & the name of the book & author & you will hopefully find it).

    Here is a link to the book titled ‘Swastika: Symbol beyond redemption?’ (Forgive me if someone has posted about it here already; I haven’t read the whole thread yet).

  41. I have a piece of pottery that has been in my family for years. I know it is Indian. The swastika is a mirror image of the Nazi version usually depicted though….and not on edge…as the nazis did. There are 4 said swastikas (on side)…in between are 4 diamond shaped symbols…all in one row near the top. It’s about 5 inches or so tall…you can almost encircle it with a hand. The rest is a variety of color stripes. Oh…each swastika has 3 dots on each side of them. Like I said I know nothing of it’s history. My mom got it from her grandmother when I was 10….48 years ago. It is OLD…but how old I do not know. The very bottom has the numbers 052. Curiosity led me here to your site with this poser of a question. Thank you.

    David N Alexander

  42. Originally It is a pre nineteen century politics BCE Mexican South West Indian and North American to some of the South Americasymbols shown as an spiritual sign used by the Hopi Pueblo and Mescalaro

  43. I have a beautiful Navajo rug with the whirling log symbols on the boarder. It is very old. I have had to explain it many times to people who have came over. It’s hanging on our wall.

  44. I have a whirling log saddle blanket it belonged to my great uncle Nestor Padilla who owned the Red Ball Cafe on 4th St SW. I’ve wanted to display the blanket), but has been to much controversy from people who know I have it. So it isn’t. Now I think I should for education

  45. It’s crazy that 1 people of tens of thousands that use this symbol of peace prosperity and of existence can ruin one of the oldest ancient RELIGIOUS symbols of good! The World Leaders after WWII chose to use this as the symbol of evil and death when it means the opposite, even the Native Americans used this symbol meaning good before the Nazii used it. Hindu, Buddha, all had remove this symbol from their religion and beliefs because of one that used it for evil. This symbol should be restored to it’s original meaning especially being one of the oldest symbols in history!

  46. i agree with you, Aaron..i too, have a basket that i fouond at a thrift store in Denver and it has the symbol weaved into is a beautiful basket with a lid that fits over top of it.and a leather strap to reopen it..quite unique and yet, i am reluctant to display it ..i would love to know more about it…
    man has a way of ruining the reputations of not only people but of cultures…

  47. I just went threw some of my great grandmother’s old jewelry and I found a very old stick pin I believe it’s a whirling log it’s an arrow with a swastika and a small piece of turquoise it’s very old but it’s all in tack . I was wondering does something like that have value and what is it .

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