Can Native Americans use Eagle and Hawk Feathers in their Art?

Hi Paula

I have a few questions about dream catchers. My sister brought a couple back recently and quarantine insisted on irradiating them. That was fine until they folded all the feathers to pack them in the post! So, am I correct in assuming that you can just replace the feathers with new ones? I dont recall ever reading about any ritual observances during a dream catchers making (its a navajo one and I dont even know if dream catchers are traditional in that culture)? I dont know what kind of feathers they are – am I right that they cannot be eagle or hawk due to your laws, or are indigenes allowed to use them in their art? Is the type of feather used significant? Thanks Paula and have a nice day

regards
Merideth from Australia

Apache Dreamcatcher with barred pea hen feathers

Hi Meredith,

Eagle, hawk and many other types of feathers are illegal to own. Some Native Americans are allowed to use them in religious ceremony but can’t sell them alone or as part of a piece of artwork because non-registered Native Americans can’t posses them.

Here is an article about a recent court ruling.

Only Indians Can Use Eagle Feathers for Religious Practices, Court Rules

To obtain eagle feathers for religious ceremonies, Native Americans can’t collect their own feathers. They must get them through a Federal Repository.  We have one here in Denver which you can read about. It is very interesting.

So most NA artists use pea hen, turkey etc. and either use them as is or paint them to be faux eagle, faux hawk, owl etc.

Lakota Imitation Red-Tailed Hawk Feather

Lakota Imitation Eagle Feather


So,  if feathers have been damaged they can be replaced with feathers that are significant to the person who owns the dreamcatcher – some use macaw, pheasant, goose……all sorts are used – it is what they are meant to represent that is important.

Dreamcatchers are usually associated with the Woodland and Plains tribes and some southwest, like Apache, but not usually Navajo, although Navajo make dreamcatcher jewelry.

I’ll be listing some amazing Apache dreamcatchers next week, resplendent with feathers, so watch the NEW page where all the new items appear first.

http://www.horsekeeping.com/new-items.htm

Paula

Native American Terms – Fetish, Totem, Amulet, Talisman

Paula,
I wondered why in your web store you describe some Indian animal carvings and jewelry pieces as fetishes and others amulets or totems. Are they all the same thing? – Stuart

Stuart,
The terms fetish, amulet, totem and talisman are often used interchangeably to describe an object that provides good fortune and protects from evil. The exact meaning of any of these terms depend on the culture and location in which it is used. Briefly, here is how I see them:

Talisman

Alaskan Thunderbird Talisman by David Audette from Sitka, Alaska

A talisman is an object that is considered to possess supernatural or magical powers and is used especially to avert evils, disease, or death. A talisman is typically engraved or cut with figures or characters, constellations, planets, or other heavenly signs. It is often worn as an amulet or charm. From the Greek word “telein”, which means “to initiate into the mysteries”. The word talisman is often used synonymous with amulet.

Amulet

Turquoise and Sterling Silver Lucky Horseshoe Amulet by Navajo artist Wilbur Muskett Jr.

An amulet is a protecting charm – any object worn to bring good luck and to ward off evil, illness, and harm from supernatural powers and from other people. Amulets are typically carvings, stones (especially with naturally occurring holes), plants (such as sage, 4-leaf clover, shamrock), coins, and jewelry (crosses, horseshoes, gemstones).

Totem

Horse Totem on Horse Spirit Medicine Bag by Apache artist Cynthia Whitehawk

A totem is an object that symbolizes a person’s or a tribe’s animal guide. This could be a totem pole, an emblem or a small figurine or carving. Native American tradition holds that different animal guides come in and out of a person’s life depending on the direction that person is headed and the challenges he faces. A totem animal is the one animal that acts as the main guardian spirit and is with a person for life, both in the physical and spiritual world. Traditionally, it is the totem animal, such as an eagle, wolf, bear, horse or dragonfly, that finds the person, not the other way around.

Fetish

Bear Fetish by Zuni artist Emery Eriacho

A fetish is a sacred object used in religious ceremonies, for spiritual awakening and to communicate with and direct supernatural powers. A fetish can provide protection, promote healing and ensure success in ventures such as hunting or farming. A Native American fetish is most often a carving, usually of an animal, that has some sort of power, and is sometimes decorated with stones, shells, and feathers. A carving without power is merely a carving. A person’s own beliefs determine the difference between a fetish and a carving.

So, whether an object is a talisman, totem, amulet or fetish is up to you. Just as the beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, so the power of an object is in the belief of the seer or wearer.

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Native American Spirit Dolls

Spirit dolls are ancient talismans against all negativity and evil. They embody spirits that have gone before, representing their strengths, positive energies, and beauty.

Here are some examples of specific Apache Spirit Dolls by celebrated artist Cynthia Whitehawk and what they represent.

Raven Medicine – Ravens carry great responsibility to Spirit and are the messengers of magic and healing from the universe where all knowledge waits for us. Raven also symbolizes changes in consciousness, of levels of awareness and perception.

Raven Shaman Spirit Doll (below)

 

Raven Shaman Spirit Doll

Necklace beads of sky blue turquoise, coral and sterling silver with hand painted bone raven feather pendant. She wears a genuine tiny beaded medicine bag – inside are rare Sacred Arizona Sweet Sage, Sacred Golden Tobacco, and tiny polished clear Quartz gemstones. These contents keep her energy clear, positive and powerful.

Raven Dream Keeper (below) is keeper of the eternal flame of life, Medicine Healing Spirit, Spirit of the Bird Clans

There are several Bird Clans depending on tribal affiliation. The Cherokee Bird Clan are messengers between earth and heaven – between humans and the Creator. The Cherokee Bird Clan has 3 subdivisions: The Raven, Turtle Dove, and Eagle. The Raven, a large Crow, is governed by Crow Medicine. The Crow is the power of the unknown at work – ceremonial magic and healing.

Raven Dream Keeper wear a necklace of tiny shell birds for her connectedness to the Bird Clan.

 

Raven Dream Keeper Bird Clan

Grandmother Medicine – Grandmother Shaman guides with the ancient wisdom and practical knowledge, ever the kindest of souls, ever the most helpful, a quieting and soothing presence. Her medicine bag is adorned with coral and turquoise. It contains a rich mixture of smudging herbs and resin, sage and golden tobacco with tiny clear quartz stones.

Grandmother Spirit Keeper – Bird Clan (below)

 

Grandmother Spirit Keeper Bird Clan

The carved tiny shell birds represent the ancient following of the Bird Clan. The gourd represents the vessels made from gourd, gourds which carried water and food for life. She wears a beaded talisman/amulet which is a carved turquoise bear, silver beads and penn shell heishi.

Crystal Keeper Medicine Woman (below)

 

Crystal Keeper Medicine Woman

Her necklaces are quartz and silver beads and large natural quartz points. She wears a tiny medicine bag beaded with quartz and silver beads. The bag contains Sacred Sweet Sage, Sacred Golden Tobacco, and tiny polished clear Quartz gemstones. These contents keep her energy clear, positive and powerful.

Grandmother Shaman: Gourd Dance Clan (below)

 

Grandmother Shaman Gourd Dance Clan

Her necklace is of sky blue and coral red old glass beads, silver and a tiny gourd, which represents the rattle made from a gourd in the Gourd Dance Clan.

The Gourd Dance was given to the Kiowa in the 1700s by a red wolf when the Kiowa inhabited the Black Hills and Devils Tower area of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The dance was a gift to the Kiowa people and the songs and dances were performed by a specific society until the 1930s – with a good wolf howl at the end of each song in tribute to the red wolf.

Thankfullly, before the tradition was lost, some Kiowa elders revived the Gourd Dance in the mid 1950s and officially formed the Gourd Dance Clan.


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Native American Symbol – Dreamcatcher

Native American Symbol:

Dreamcatcher

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Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatcher – Some consider the dreamcatcher a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures.

Dreamcatchers are an authentic American Indian tradition from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe. A dreamcatcher is a based on a hoop (traditionally of willow), on which is woven a net or web of sinew in a somewhat similar pattern to how the Ojibway tied webbing for snowshoes. A “dream-catcher” was hung in the sleeping area as a charm to protect children from nightmares. A legend holds that a dreamcatcher filters a person’s dreams, letting through the good ones and trapping bad dreams in the web. Some believe that a dreamcatcher can help us remember our dreams.

Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatchers are often decorated with personal and sacred items such as feathers, totems and beads. While these additions may make a dreamcatcher appealing and add to them as a work of art, it is suggested by some that such ornaments are not appropriate on dreamcatchers used for “catching dreams” as they could interfere with the spiraling motion of the web and can cause disturbing dreams.

Generally, a dreamcatcher is suspended near the place where you sleep, on the wall, or perhaps from a lampshade or bedpost.

Mandala – Sometimes misspelled mandalla or mandella, it is from the Sanskrit, circle. A mandala is a circular image or item with ritualistic geometric designs that link to and are symbolic of the universe. Used mostly in Hinduism and Buddhism, a mandala is similar to a dreamcatcher but it has no web. Instead, the circle is filled with designs or can be filled with yarn, feathers, fur and usually has feathers hanging from the bottom. A mandala is something you use as an aid in meditation or hang for prosperity and good fortune on a door or wall inside your office, home, hogan, or tipi.

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver