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Background

Many Native Americans were connected to the Great Spirit through the nature around them. They believe that everything is balanced in nature and that “God is within all things” (Oglala Sioux, Helium). The Apache believe in Diye which is the “power inherent within all animals, plants and humans” (American Indian Religious Traditions). Animals play an essential role in Native American culture. The Native Americans relied on animals for everything including food, clothing, transportation, agriculture and seasonal changes. These were not the only roles that animals played in their culture animals also served as teachers, companions and spiritual guides. There is a connection with this animal in some form, maybe through an interest in the animal, shared characteristics with the animal, or an interaction with animal in a dream. The Native Americans believe that this animal is with you for life in both the natural and spiritual world. Each Native American has a power animal which is either chosen or given to them. Each animal has a different meaning or symbol. The symbols for these animals are not universal between Native American tribe; each tribe may interpret it slightly differently.

Power Animals
Here I am going to list some power animals and their meanings in relation to the Apache Native Americans. Eagles embody courage, spirit, and bravery because they are the chief aerial hunters. The Apache believe that the Eagle is the animal that is nearest to the Great Spirit. This is similar to many other tribes as well. The dog represents a guardian and protector. As a totem animal it teaches individuals the true meaning of unconditional love. Horses signify speed, strength and grace. The horse assisted the native people with hunting because it allowed them to move more quickly and longer distances. The fox symbolizes cunning, slyness, stealth, observation, and wisdom. The fox helps you identify the subtle things if life and makes you aware of unfriendly situations. One belief of the apache is that the fox gave the first people fire. The snake represents death and rebirth, as well as a friend. The snake is a valuable spirit guide because it has lots of symbolism behind it. When it sheds its skin that shows the natives that you need to leave your previous habits and thoughts as you grow spiritually. As the snake is about to shed its skin their eyes turn opaque or pale blue which often makes it look like it’s in a trance. This is why snake guides show you how to look into the hearts of others and help them on their spiritual journeys. Since there are multiple meanings for these animals I am going to show you some of the differences as well as the similarities in meaning. As well as different meanings there are different animals that are found. For example when looking at the Apache I did not find the buffalo listed but other tribes do. The buffalo represents sacredness, great strength, life, abundance and gratitude. The dolphin also was a different animal that I found. The dolphin signifies unseen communication because the dolphins have established complex auditory signals which alert others to future dangers in the world. This makes the dolphin a good spirit guide. An additional meaning that the dog has is loyalty which can stretch across any culture because dogs are well known for being man’s best friend.

Finding Power Animals

One of the ways that the Native Americans find their power animal is through a vision quest. “A vision quest is a supernatural experience in which an individual seeks to interact with a guardian spirit to obtain advice or protection” (Britannic Encyclopedia). Children were usually sent on a vision quest before they hit puberty. They would go to an isolated location in the woods, and in some cultures they would fast and participate in prayer with hallucinogens during their quest. In some traditions the children were instructed to watch for animals that acted in an unusual way or they would find objects that were similar to certain animals. The Apache believed that it was important to find a spirit guide while you were still young. This was due to the belief that if you did not find a spirit guardian in time then the power could not be gained and would vanish leaving the child to live without that protection. The quest usually lasted one night but there have been some that have lasted five days or more. Another thing they believed was that the children needed to enter the quest with proper intentions and attitude because if you went with hostility you might attract an unwelcome spirit whose powers would be used for mischievous purposes. After a successful quest the individual would come home and seek help in interpreting the experience they had. The quests ended when the child hit puberty and the Spirit did not return to the individual until adulthood.



Spirit Dance Ceremonial

This dance is the initiation into spirit dancing of a person with spirit sickness. This is prescribed by a Shaman as a healing process to the spirit sickness. The Spirit sickness is caused by the possession by the Guardian Spirits and the only cure is spirit dancing. The Ceremony lasts anywhere from 4 days to 4 weeks this depends on the individual who is trying to find his or her song and dance. This is sole purpose of the Spirit Dance Ceremony.



Winter Spirit Dance
This dance has a great importance to the Native Americans. The winter spirit dance was hosted by individuals who had a successful spirit vision. The individual’s family is in charge of telling the community about the dance and to make all of the preparations for the dances. The individual had to abide by their spirit guides wishes or else bad luck might follow. An event that might also happen at the winter spirit dance was a sweat house. People might participate in the sweat house to cleanse themselves spiritually and ask for assistance in special prayers from their spirit guides. At the Winter Spirit Dance there is singing of the Guardian spirit son, dancing, Shaman performances, feasting and gift presentations.




Totem Poles

A totem is “an animal, plant or other natural being that serves as the symbol or emblem of a clan or extended family among many tribal groups”(Encyclopedia of Native American Religion ,306).The totem is the protector of the person, clan, tribe or community. The totem pole represents an individual’s place in their family, which included the whole clan of relatives. Relatives could be related by blood, experience, war exploits, and adoption. The totem poles true meaning is really only known by the owner. Totem poles are not worshiped and they are not gods. Their symbolism can be compared to the Great Seal of the United States, although the totem poles represent clans rather than nations. The Apache used totem poles as a story or for remembering a significant historical time, person or place. As opposed to the more time-honored spiritual entity that was how the Western tribes viewed the totem pole.

New Age Interest
Recently there has been lots of information on Totem animals and spirit animals. There are ways that you can find your own totem/spirit animal. One of the ways you can find your totem animal is by taking online quizzes. This does not however give you a great picture as to what your spirit animal is. Another way is through meditation, First you need to find a quiet remote place and then just sit and relax to find your spirit animal. You can then make contact with your spirit guide(s). A third way to find your spirit animal is to think about the animals that you interact with the most in your daily life and it is very likely that one or more of those animals is your spirit animal(s).


Webliography
"Animals in Native American Culture - by Dawn R. Cole - Helium." Helium - Where Knowledge Rules. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.helium.com/items/1189640-totems-power-animals-wisdom-strength-symbols-emblems>. This supported my research by increasing my knowledge about the use of animals in the Navtive American culture. Specifically by telling me about the spirit guides.
"Answers.com - Did the Apache Tribe Make Totem Poles." WikiAnswers - The Q&A Wiki. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_the_apache_tribe_make_totem_poles>. This enhanced my project by telling me how the Apache use totem poles. It also gave me a comparison with the Western tribes use of the totem poles.
Crawford, O'Brien Suzanne J., and Dennis F. Kelley. American Indian Religious Traditions: an Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Print. This helped my research by showing me the Apache indians' word for the power within living things. It also gave me some information on the ceremonies that the Apache participate in. A third thing it taught me was about Vision quests which is one of the ways the Apache find their spirit guide.
DIFFERENTmedia©. "Totem Pole Meaning." Muesem of Anthropology-British Columbia. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://users.imag.net/~sry.jkramer/nativetotems/meaning.htm#>. This gave me lots of information on the meaning of totem poles. It also gave me some information on the oral tradition of totem poles.
Hirschfelder, Arlene B., and Paulette Fairbanks. Molin. Encyclopedia of Native American Religions: an Introduction. New York: Facts on File, 2000. Print. This added to my information on the Winter Spirit dance and introduced another ceremony that is associated with guardian spirit animals, the Spirit Dance Ceremonial. It also gave me the definition of a totem. and a little more information about the totems.
"Native American Totems and Their Meanings." Legends of America - A Travel Site for the Nostalgic and Historic Minded. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-totems.html>. This site gave some more examples of Totem/Power animals. It also gave me a better explanation of what a totem animal means in the Native American's lives. This adds more to my understanding of their culture and beliefs.
"Northwest Symbols." Manataka American Indian Council. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.manataka.org/page30.html>. This enhanced my information on the Totem poles meaning. It also gave me some more information on totem symbols and animals for the Plains indians(page 31).
"Powersource Art & Education Center - Objects of Power." Powersource. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.powersource.com/gallery/objects/default.html>. This shows more of the variation in power animals and their meanings. There are many differences and similarities in power animals. This site also provides a little bit of a background story on how the animals guide the Native Americans in their daily lives.
Pritzker, Barry. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Google Books. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. This gave me more information about the Winter Spirit dance. It also told that the Native Americans also find their spirit animals in dreams.
Smith, Jeri. "Find Your Spirit Animal - an Online Quiz - Jeri Smith-Ready." Home Page - Jeri Smith-Ready. 2006. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.jerismithready.com/quiz/>. This is a quiz that shows one of the New Age ways to find your spirit animal. It is not a very good way of finding your actual spirit animal because it is based on a novelists ideas.
"SPIRIT GUIDES - Part II." Manataka American Indian Council. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.manataka.org/page236.html>. This shows you many of the power animals that the Apache have as spirit guides. It also shows you the meaning of the animal in thier lives and other cultures as well.
"Vision Quest (Native American Religion) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Ed. Elizabeth Prine Pauls, Richard Pallardy, and The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. 29 Mar. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/630694/vision-quest>. This contributed to my research by giving more information about what a vision quest is and how it relates to finding a spirit animal. It also gave me a little bit of information about the sun dance which is intertwined with vision quests.