The bald eagle has been central in Native American traditions and lore since the dawn of time. Although the beliefs of each tribe vary slightly, the bald eagle is a symbol of vision, swiftness and strength. It is also known for carrying the prayers of men up to God on the back of its mighty wings. The presence of the eagle is tightly woven in Native American mythology, dances, ceremonies, regalia and ornamentation.
In the 1860's the Lakota designed what would be known later as the most recognizable of all Native American regalia, the war bonnet. This headgear with swept back eagle feathers was worn with great honor. Each feather was acquired from a warrior's personal act of bravery. The Lakota feather war bonnet was so magnificent and full that it trailed the ground and swayed in the breeze mimicking the eagle's graceful wing beats.
The Lakota as well as many Plains tribes could acquire eagle feathers by, "counting coup". This was the act of touching ones opponent with a hand, stick, or weapon without drawing blood, rendering him injured and defeated without fatally wounding him, This was known as one of the bravest acts of valor and worthy of an eagle feather.
According to Lakota mythology, it was an eagle that rescued a woman who gave birth to twins and from them came the origin of the Lakota people. This white headed winged patriarch was said to have witnessed the arrival of the first human to the Ancient Americas.
Through the ages, spanning the generations of many cultures, eagles have always evoked a feeling of awe and wonder. Perhaps one of the most profound and timeless thoughts ever penned about eagles was written by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago. ". . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will mount up on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:31) Ultimately eagles symbolize the longing within every part of us to soar above the storm of life, to embrace freedom and every boundless possibility.