Turtle Native American Symbol, Symbolism & Meaning, Animal Protection

Turtle Native American Symbol

Turtle Native American Symbol is an important symbol in the culture of many Americans. Turtles and tortoises are often used to represent this symbol as they have significant meanings for the culture. The turtle represents life and creation, like the americans, as it is a creature that has been around for centuries and will continue to be present in future generations.

Powerpacplus’s Summary

  • Traditional Native American artwork and jewelry still utilize the turtle to symbolize these attributes.
  • Navajo diné utilize turtle shells to give medications because of their medicinal powers.
  • Clans of Turtles A maternal-lineage-based secondary clan structure existed in American civilizations.
  • Some global turtle conservation groups

About Turtle Symbol

The turtle is a native symbol that is widely used among many Native American tribes. It is believed that turtles and tortoises have been around for millions of years, making them an important part of the natural world.

The turtle represents many things; strength, stability, protection and long life spans.

Turtles are also symbols of motherhood as they lay eggs in which they protect until hatching. This makes the turtle spirit sacred to many native cultures, although each tribe may have slightly different interpretations of its meaning.

The turtle has been used by Native Americans for centuries to represent these qualities and can still be seen today in both traditional artwork and modern day jewelry.

Value of the turtle

  • For most tribes, the tortoise also represents healing, wisdom, spirituality, health, safety, longevity, protection, and fertility. 
  • Some Native Americans believe that the turtle contributed to creation because the turtle dived into the primeval waters to fetch mud to create Mother Earth. 
  • In addition, the turtle’s shell represents endurance.
  • For Navajo diné, the turtle’s shell is used to dispense medicines—the turtle’s healing properties are so great that no other container will do. 
  • Others use the shell to make dance rattles for ceremonial purposes. 
  • With 13 patterned squares in the center of its shell, some tribes use the shell as a calendar. 
  • The thirteen squares represent the thirteen full moons of the year. 
  • The surrounding twenty-eight squares of the shell represent the twenty days of each lunar month.

Native American Turtle symbol meanings

The heavenly symbol of Mother Earth

In fact, most turtles have 13 grooves or scales on the back of their shells. For Americans, these scales represent thirteen full moons each year.

That’s not all. The outer rim of most turtle shells has twenty-eight minor grooves, which to Native Americans represent 28 days in a lunar month. That is why they consider this species a heavenly symbol of Mother Earth.

Turtle Earth Mother

According to an old American myth, a great flood occurred that covered the entire earth with water.

Luckily, turtle earthmother swam underwater and collected mud from the ocean floor, which she used to create land for humans and animals to later live on.

Turtle Earth Mother

Turtle Island

The Iroquois also passed on a similar myth.

Her story is about Sky Woman falling to earth while covered in water. So the animals that lived in the sea tried to make some land for them.

But after diving to the bottom of the sea to bring up the mud to make land, they didn’t know where to put it. Therefore, the muskrat started pouring mud on a turtle.

Later, other animals joined to help load more mud onto this turtle’s back. Thanks to this, they quickly created a whole island on which our Earth was formed.

For the Mohawks, our earth is also carried by a giant tortoise. They also explain that the dynamic phenomenon is that the turtle shrugs to shift the weight of the world it carries on its back.

Turtle Clans

American cultures also had a secondary clan system organized around family groups based on maternal lineage.

The fact is that the clans functioned as a communal system of organization and division of labour. According to some historians, they prevented close relatives from marrying to keep the gene pool healthy.

The clan is also associated with animals such as crows, foxes, bears or hummingbirds. Among them, some tribes have turtle clans. These tribes include the Chippewa, Menominee, Huron-Wyandot, Abenaki, Iroquois, and Shawnee.

Turtle Clans

Organizations for Turtles Protection

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), many turtle species are currently classified as threatened, endangered or critically endangered. Common threats to turtles include:

  • Pollution
  • Plastic trash
  • Poaching
  • Habitat loss

Climate change impacts include hotter sands, severe storms, rising sea levels and more.

This species is also affected by coastal development and human fisheries.

So if you love this animal, protect it now before it’s too late. Here are some organizations working to save turtles around the world:

  • Humane Society International
  • Protection of turtles
  • Wildlife Trade Alliance
  • Conservation of sea turtles
  • WildAid


The turtle symbolizes many things spiritually. Turtles represent a long life, wisdom and patience as they have been known to live for over 100 years.

The turtle spirit is also associated with fertility and new beginnings, as turtles lay eggs in the sand. This makes them sacred creatures in some cultures, and their slightly different meaning can depend on their environment; whether that be a lake or river.

Their front feet are shaped like claws, enabling them to dig and make nests in the ground. Baby turtles hatch from these nests and then must round the underground to make it to the water safely.

This represents perseverance and strength, which is another spiritual aspect of this animal. On top of this, turtles being associated with mother earth makes them even more symbolic as they embody her stability and regeneration.

Even though each culture may view this creature differently, its deeper meaning remains the same – that of strength, endurance and protection.

Native Americans have long held turtles in sacred regard, and it’s hard to imagine what we would be without their existence.

Tortoises live on land, while turtles eat both on land and in water. They are found in both oceans or near lakes and rivers. Turtles have a flat shell that helps them swim and survive in the wild. The webbing between their toes help them move quickly through the water, and they spend different times of the day foraging on land and sea.

They used turtles for food, clothing, tools and medicine. And they also used their shells as containers to transport things. In one area of history, some tribes even used turtle shells as rattles during ceremonies.

The front feet of some species are webbed, which gives them an advantage when they travel over large distances near lakes.

Without turtles, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy nature’s gifts as much as we do today – so it is important to respect these animals and protect their habitats.

The turtle is a sacred symbol to the Lakota tribe. Turtles and tortoises live in many areas throughout the world, and are known to eat a variety of foods and live long lives in comparison with other species. They can even live as long as 150 years! The tortoise, being herbivorous, has been a source of food for many cultures and tribes over centuries.

For the Lakota tribe, the turtle symbolizes much more than food sources; they remember her value and protect her as she has protected them for centuries. The turtles’ slow movement and long life spans represent patience, resilience, and determination – qualities that are highly respected within the Lakota culture.

Turtles also represent balance since they navigate between land and water, two important elements that sustain life on earth. Furthermore, turtles remind us of our connection to nature; their behavior coincides with different times of the day, just like humans do in their daily activities.

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