Anyone who views Native American art will quickly understand that the meaning of the beautiful symbols and characters far exceed literal meaning alone. Native American writing is another extension of tribal artwork, and its display serves a purpose other than just to relay information; it is a way for the artists to describe how they feel about the spiritual connectedness of all livingand nonlivingbeings.
Most Native American tribes recognize that all things in the universe have a deeper meaning, which is why the symbol of a being, such as an eagle, means so much more than simply the flying being that is seen by humans. To Native Americans, the eagle itself has a spirit and a purpose that warrants a unique written character. That character may mean something different to every tribe; perhaps in one group it means freedom or independence. Historically, if an eagle was painted on a warriors shield or on a newly married couples hut, it may have meant that they were officially independent from their nuclear families and should go out to make a life of their own. Once you begin to recognize the spiritual meaning of tribal symbols, it is easier to recognize their purpose in artwork.
Another aspect of tribal symbols that is important to recognize is that whatever object the symbol is painted on very often took on that particular characters spiritual trait. This means that if a tribes symbol of courage is the wolf, then painting a wolf symbol on a warriors shield transferred that bravery onto the shield. Because Native Americans hold a strong belief that even nonliving objects had a spiritual quality, it is easy to see how a character trait or spiritual quality could move from one object to another. Learning about tribal symbols is frustrating in one way, however. It makes todays written language seem simple, and, in fact, a bit boring, doesnt it?
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