Native American Animals

Native American cultures have long maintained a close relationship with animals, keeping them as companions, sources of sustenance, and even as spiritual guides. We invite you to discover the diverse array of animals cherished by indigenous tribes throughout history.

From loyal canine companions to the introduction of horses, Native American tribes have nurtured special bonds with animals. Dogs served as trusted companions, assisting in hunting, guarding, and providing transport.

Horses, introduced by European settlers, transformed the way of life for many tribes, becoming indispensable for transportation, war, trade, and hunting. Some tribes developed their own breeds of horses that are still around today.

Beyond domesticated animals, many tribes also kept wildlife in captivity. Birds such as eagles and hawks were revered as powerful spiritual symbols. Other tribes kept smaller animals like rabbits and turkeys, recognizing their value as sources of food, fur, and feathers for ceremonial purposes.

In addition to their practical roles, these animals held significant cultural and symbolic meaning for Native American tribes. They featured prominently in tribal art, folklore, and ceremonies, embodying qualities such as strength, wisdom, and spirituality.

Through storytelling and oral traditions, tribes passed down knowledge about these animals, fostering a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living beings.

While some traditional practices have evolved over time, the keeping of animals remains an important aspect of Native American culture. Many tribes continue to honor and care for animals today, both within reservation lands and in modern urban settings.

Efforts are made to preserve traditional knowledge and promote sustainable practices that balance the well-being of animals with the needs of the community.

Native American tribes play a vital role in safeguarding habitats, advocating for wildlife protection, and promoting sustainable practices that respect the delicate balance of nature.

Celebrate the animals kept by Native American tribes, past, and present. Let us appreciate the profound connections forged between humans and animals, honoring the wisdom, beauty, and cultural significance they bring to indigenous communities.

The Blackfeet Buffalo Horse


Article Index:

A Day with the Buffalo and the Elders

In beginning this story, let us all back up and take time to learn about the buffalo and why they are sacred to the Native people.

As is our tradition, listening to the oral history from a trusted Elder is how we learn our history and deepen our respect for our culture and the legacy of those who have come before.

I am honored to share this story as told by Scott Frazier, Santee/Crow, as told to him by his Grandfather.

Alaskan natives kill whale wounded in hunt 120 years ago

Native Alaskan hunters have found part of a 19th century weapon embedded in the shoulder of a bowhead whale, leading scientists to believe the animal was wounded in a hunt almost 120 years ago.

Ma’amin, the Nez Perce Horse

The Nez Perce Tribe, historically, were the only known group of people indigenous to North America who, after becoming a society revolving around a horse culture, selectively raised horses that stood up to tests of racing, endurance and stamina resulting in an economy that flourished with the demand for their horses and also resulted in acclaim of legendary proportions throughout the world.

Meanings attributed to animals by the Oglala Lakota
Pray for the Buffalo
We are all one family: Buffalo and Native Americans
We must honor the buffalo! We are buffalo people.
We must honor the buffalo! We are buffalo people
What the buffalo mean to Native Americans (our people)