Eagle, detail, 1992, Sally Black, ET513.F-14
Photo: Kirstin Roper, © NHMU

Eagle Symbolism

Atsá (eagle) is sacred in Diné (Navajo) culture. The most important of the birds, the eagle is revered as a predator and the symbol of a warrior. Because of its spiritual power, the eagle is associated with many ceremonies, including the Eagle Way, a major healing ceremony. All parts of the eagle are used in ceremonies and for curing illness. Its gall is used to protect against the most powerful evil forces. In Diné sacred stories, Na'ashjé'íí Asdzą́ą́ (Spider Woman) gives the Hero Twins a living eagle feather to protect them from the many dangers they will face on their journey into the world. Basket weaver Sally Black notes, “The eagle is everywhere . . . we used the eagle for ceremonies. You can pray to the eagle, when you see it flying up there, you bless yourself . . . That’s why I always like to do eagle designs. They just come to you.”