Authentic Native American Basket


Symbols Used in Native American Art and Craft


Each design depicts a part of the Native American life.  


  • Arrows, arrowheads, bows and spears acknowledge the hunting way of life. 

  • Rain, lightning and clouds depict the acquiescence to the forces of nature. And the gift of life for there is no life without water.

  • Sun, sun rays, moon and stars acknowledge a new day and the new beginning you receive with each dawn.  A gift of life. They also allude to the gift of light and darkness so the people and animals are able to go about their business and also have a time to rest.  

  • Flowers and plants, depict the natural beauty of the world and acknowledge the healing properties of plants.

  • Animal designs in general speak to the strength of the animal, the gift of life given to the people through the meat the animal shares. Animals also have medicinal powers associated with them.

  • Bird designs show their desire to help mankind through the gifts of feathers to take prayers up to the Creator, wash away the hurts of the people through use in ceremonial practices, or to be carried for strength, protection and resolve.

  • Insects showing their willingness to help mankind however way they are able.  They also have medicinal properties (see animal designs)

  • Coyote to remind us of his trickster ways and the moral of stories associated with Coyote

  • Corn the mother food.

  • Shapes - Diamond, one way arrows, circles; each has its own meaning diamond shapes are another way to indicate cloud designs. One way arrows indicate a movement in a specific direction or in the case of the circle which indicates the circle of life whether that is literal birth, life, death or a more suggestive meaning such as coming full circle.

  • Horses became a great resource for all tribes because of the mobility gained by using horses

  • Turtle most every tribe has a story about turtles.  Most talk about turtle carrying the people on his back. This design alludes to the strength of the turtle.

  • Water animals acknowledge their part in bringing rain due to their association with water.


Author: Rosalie Talahongva
Tribal Affiliation: Hopi
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