First Nation Talking Stick Symbolism

February 03, 2015

In a previous article we wrote about the Talking Stick and associated protocol. Here we are going to explore some of the symbolism represented in the wood, carvings, paints and adornments.


First Nation Talking Stick symbolism is ripe with spirituality and tradition. While each First Nation’s culture, traditions and history is unique there are some shared or common symbolism attached to animals, birds, trees and colours. For instance, the eagle is almost universally considered, by both Aboriginal People in Canada and Native Americans, to be the ruler of the sky with a connection to the Creator.



The Muses


The wood chosen is selected for its carving attributes and spirituality. Ceremonies around seeking permission from the tree spirit to make the talking stick are frequently practiced. Here’s a sampling of some tree varieties and their associated symbolism. Not all of these listed are found in all regions of Canada.

Arbutus = knowledge

Aspen = seeing clearly

Beech = tolerance

Birch = truth

Cedar = cleansing

Cherry = high emotions/new awakenings

Elm = wisdom

Maple = gentleness and sweetness

Mountain Ash = protection

Oak = strength

Walnut = focus

White pine = peace


For the purpose of this aspect, we are focussing on the First Nations of the Northwest coast of Canada and what each creature symbolises.

Eagle =  grace, power, and great intellectual abilities.

Bear = great self-awareness, family and strength

Whale =  kindness, intelligence and compassion

Raven = change in life, creativity, and humor

Frog = cleansing, peace and rebirth

Wolf = perseverance, intuition and success

Salmon = symbolizes instinct, determination and persistence

Hummingbird = beauty, intelligence, and love

Butterfly = metamorphosis, balance and grace

Beaver = good work ethics, a strong will and protector, with a strong sense of family

Dragonfly = change, transformation and swiftness

Thunderbird = administering law and protocol


Some cultures stain their talking sticks, others paint them.

Black = clarity, success

Blue = intuition, wisdom

Green = nature, harmony

Orange = kinship, intellect

Purple = power, magic

Red = life, happiness

Yellow = knowledge, courage

White = purity, spirit


Feathers, animal skins and beads are the most frequently used adornments.

Eagle feathers embody truth and high ideals

Turkey feathers embody peaceful attitudes, especially during differences of opinion

Owl feathers embody power and prevention of deception from entering the meeting

So, if you are present at a ceremony or meeting that involves a Talking Stick appreciate the spirtuality, history and tradition that has gone into its creation and the significance of you being included in a meeting so heavily infused with tradition.

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Topics: Indigenous Arts and Culture

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