Native American Symbols

Native American Symbols
We are often asked by customers about the meaning of designs used in American Indian arts and crafts, particularly on jewelry and pottery. 

While it is true that many design symbols represent specific ideas or things taken from a Native American cultural context, it is also true that many are only peripherally related to the culture or religious beliefs of a particular tribe.

What is significant to one tribe may or may not be meaningful to another tribe, or it may be interpreted in a different way. Many symbols are just an artist’s interpretation of a pleasing pattern or patterns that look good together.

In this section, we shall discuss some of the most common symbols found in native american art, crafts, and cultures.



Article Index:

Common Hopi Symbols

Here are some common Hopi symbols.


Hopi Maze Symbol Mother Earth or Maze Symbol:
This is a common symbol among many Native American tribes, including the Hopi. One of its representations is that of mother and child. In a broader sense, the connection of earth mother to us as her children. The beginning, straight center-line represents the child – or our philosophical beginnings – the surrounding maze represents the enfolding energies of mother earth. Note the maze does not enclose the center –line representing the child. The symbolism then is strong when we realize the support of the mother is constantly around yet our ability to venture out on our own is always available.

Hopi World Symbol:
This symbol signifies world to the Hopi The “cosmic cross” or four bars represent north, south, east and west correspond to the outermost points on the horizon where the sun passes through the year; the solstice and equinox points. The four circles inside the outer outline represent the four nations (the first four tribes of mankind), which came to the world to keep balance.

Hopi Sun Symbol Hopi Sun Symbol:
A symbol of creative and natural energy. The supreme god due to the Hopi’s dependence upon it for the growth of corn, and other sustaining crops. The sun symbol represents the heart of the cosmos and deals with vitality, growth, and passion.

Hopi Spiral Symbol Hopi Spiral Symbol:
This rendition of the Hopi spiral is also common among North, South and Central Native American Indian tribes. The spiral represents the number of journeys or treks a tribe or nation has made to the four corners of the earth. Engraved on stones, the spiral suggests an intricate journey made to the Otherworlds on back. Generally, the spiral represents a broadening of consciousness, which is the destination arrived after a long journey.

Hopi Kachina Sun Symbol Hopi Kachina Sun Symbol:
Also known as a Tawa kachina, it is a spirit symbolizing of life, growth, strength of spirit, and abundance. The likeness of this spirit is donned during the solstice ceremony to beckon the sun’s return, and begin the growing season.

Indian symbols used on the hunting horse

Since the Indian hunting horse had different duties than that of a war horse, a different set of symbols were used to aid the hunting horse and his rider.

Designed to help the Indian hunter in finding the buffalo herd, many of these symbols also brought favor from the Great Spirit.

Indian symbols used on the war horse

While the symbols used and their meanings varied from tribe to tribe, there were some common Indian symbols used on the war horse. 

Each power symbol has its own specific meaning and the purpose for which it was used was determined by the nature of the dangerous job which the war horse would be asked to do. In this article, you will find explanations of some symbols which Indians used to decorate their war horses.

More native american jewelry symbols
Pueblo symbols and their meanings
Reading the rocks: Hopi history in petroglyphs