Native American Legends
Symbolism of the Eagle Feather
A Lumbee Legend
In the beginning, the Great Spirit above gave to the animals and
birds wisdom and knowledge and the power to talk to men. He sent
these creatures to tell man that he showed himself through them.
They would teach a chosen man sacred songs and dance, as well as
much ritual and lore.
The creature most loved by the Great Spirit was the eagle, for
he tells the story of life. The Eagle, as you know, has only two
eggs, and all living things in the world are divided into two. Here
is man and woman, male and female and this is true with animals,
birds, trees, flowers and so on. All things have children of two
kinds so that life may continue. Man has two eyes, two hands, two
feet and he has a body and soul, substance and shadow.
Through his eyes, he sees pleasant and unpleasant scenes, through
his nostrils he smells good and bad odors, with his ears he hears
joyful news and words that make him sad. His mind is divided between
good and evil. His right hand he may often use for evil, such as
war or striking a person in anger. But his left hand, which is near
his heart, is always full of kindness. His right foot may lead him
in the wrong path, but his left foot always leads him the right
way, and so it goes; he has daylight and darkness, summer and winter,
peace and war, and life and death.
In order to remember this lesson of life, look to the great eagle,
the favorite bird of the Great Spirit. The eagle feather is divided
into two parts, part light, and part dark. This represents daylight
and darkness, summer and winter, peace and war, and life and death.
So that you may remember what I have told you, look well on the
eagle, for his feathers, too, tell the story of life.
Look at the feathers I wear upon my hand, the one on the right
is large and perfect and is decorated; this represents man. The
one on my left is small and plain; this represents woman. The eagle
feather is divided into two parts, dark and white. This represents
daylight and darkness, summer and winter. For the white tells of
summer, when all is bright and the dark represents the dark days
My children, remember what I tell you. For it is YOU who will choose
the path in life you will follow -- the good way, or the wrong way.
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