Native American Birds of Myth and Legend

Birds play a wide variety of roles in Native American mythology. Frequently they serve as messengers from the Creator, or between humans and the spirit world. Eagle plays a leadership role in the mythology of many tribes, while Raven is frequently portrayed as culture hero, trickster, or both.

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Other Native American birds play the parts of heroes, villains, wise advisors, flighty suitors, jealous competitors, and everything in between.

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Birds are common clan animals in many different Native American tribes. Besides the major clans related to specific types of birds (such as the Eagle Clan and the Raven Clan), there are also generalized Bird Clans in some tribes, such as the Bird Clan of the Creek tribe (called Fusualgi or Fuswvlke), the Bird Clan of the Cherokees (called Anijisqua or Anitsiskwa), or the Feather Clan of the Mi’kmaq tribe. Birds are the most important clan crests of most Northwest Coast tribes and are commonly carved on totem poles (especially Eagle, Raven, and Thunderbird).

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