The presence of animals play an integral part of the culture and spiritual beliefs of Native American tribes. Native Americans observed the natural habits of animals -- eating, life cycles and motherhood -- and recognised them as symbolic to human spiritual characteristics. Animals were also correlated with Native American totemism, or the religious belief of associating a symbol with a tribe or culture.
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In Native American cultures, the spiritual meaning of wolves differ among tribes. Native American tribes who viewed wolves as good, regarded them as teachers. Another spiritual attribute of wolves is loyalty, which is seen from wolves running in packs. However; some tribes, such as the Navajo and Hopi, viewed wolves as a source of power. They believed human witch doctors used the wolf's strength for their own gains.
Native Americans correlated the spirit of the bear with freedom and unpredictability. This belief derived from the bear's eating habits. Normally, a bear is peaceful and eats vegetation, but when provoked, becomes a fierce adversary. Other spiritual traits of bears, according to Native Americans, are courage, motherhood, protection and discernment. The Sioux Native Americans also believed bears were the spiritual symbol of healing.
The shedding of snake skin to Native American tribes is symbolic of new life. This is also why Native Americans believed snakes were a spiritual sign of change and parting with old habits. Since snakes do not have eyelids, this led to the belief that snakes were responsible for providing people insight on learning new abilities. Some Native American tribes also associate snakes with spiritual and physical healing.
Owls represented various spiritual meanings, depending on the Native American tribe. Many tribes believed owls were a source of divination and supernatural knowledge. Differing opinions came from the Ojibwa, who revered the owl as a powerful force -- albeit an evil one -- and the Pawnee saw the owl as a symbol of protection. The Pueblo believed owls were related to fertility and death.
For Native Americans, deer was a primary source of meat for their tribes. Native American tribes always prayed to the deer spirits before a hunt to ensure a successful venture. Also, hunters only killed what was necessary to feed the tribe. Native Americans believed the spirit of the deer was symbolic of compassion, generosity and unconditional love. By only hunting what was necessary for the tribe, it was believed deer also represented living for the greater good, not selfishly.
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