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Lakota Sioux Symbols Meanings

Lakota Sioux Symbols - Lakota Sioux Meanings

Lakota Sioux Symbols. The Lakota Sioux are a Native American tribe, one of the three Sioux tribes of the Plains. Their traditional lands were in modern-day North and South Dakota.
The Sioux people are thought to have originated in lower Mississippi, the Ohio river valley. They moved, over time, to the upper Mississippi region and then conflict with other tribes forced them further north towards Iowa and then to the Great Plains. In the Plains, the Sioux were introduced to horseback riding, and became expert hunters of the white buffalo.
When explorers and settlers from Europe began to appear in North America, the Lakota Sioux were initially antagonistic. They saw settlers as encroaching on their lands and competition for resources. Eventually, the settlers negotiated a treaty which acknowledged the Sioux to be sovereign over the lands of the great plains in exchange for European safe passage along the Oregon Trail.
A gold rush in the Black Hills – considered sacred by many Native American tribes – caused tensions to flair again. It was during this period that the famous Battle of Little Bighorn was fought, and General Custer’s troops were defeated by Chief Crazy horse. Unfortunately, this victory led to a US military crackdown on Sioux tribes, who were driven onto small reservations and restricted from hunting buffalo. Not long after, famous Sioux chieftain Sitting Bull was killed at Standing Rock.
The Lakota believe all things contain a spirit; including animals, plants, rocks, and rivers. Much of the Lakota Sioux mythology centers around these spirits, as well as mythological creatures and shamanic practice. Lakota Sioux symbols reflect this engagement with the natural and spiritual worlds, as well as commitment to respect, rather than dominate, the natural world.
In the modern day, the Lakota Sioux live mainly in reservations. Significant controversies have arisen over the years due to their treatment by successive US governments. In 1980, the Supreme Court awarded $122 million to Sioux tribes as compensation for mistreatment over land claims in the Black Hills. The Sioux rejected the Supreme Court payment as it would legally negate their claims to return to their ancestral lands.

Tortoise protection Lakota Sioux symbol

Tortoise Protection

In the Sioux mythology, the tortoise carries the world on its back. Tortoises are also responsible for shepherding newborn babies into the world. The tortoise represents life. This symbol is one of protection for birth and for young children.

Spider Lakota Sioux


The spider symbol is traditional among the Osage and Omaha Native American tribes. It represents honor and is commonly tattooed on a woman held in high esteem. The cross in the middle of the symbol represents the Earth and its ability to provide life.

Manitou Lakota Sioux


Manitou is the Native American concept of spirit or life force. Manitou exists everywhere and in everything. It is this energy that Native American shamans use to heal the sick and to call for changes in the weather.

Bear Lakota Sioux


Stories about bear god and spirits exist in the mythologies of several Native American tribes. Hunting and eating bears is forbidden in Lakota Sioux tribes. The bear represents justice and punishment, as well as courage, confidence and a grounding energy. The bear is also a symbol of protection, with tribes recognizing the way a mother bear defends her cubs. The bear symbol entreats you to stand up for your beliefs and fight for what is true.

Dreamcatcher Lakota Sioux symbol


The dreamcatcher originated with Native Canadian tribes, but is equally common amongst the Sioux. It protects the sleeper against bad dreams, which are caught in the central netting. Good dreams are able to pass through and are funneled towards the sleeper’s head.

Forked tree Lakota Sioux

Forked Tree

The forked tree represents dualism, discord and division. The image is symmetrical, and the two branches meet to form a single tree, suggesting that people have much more in common than they might imagine. The tree may also represent inner conflict between good and evil. Native American belief doesn’t hold these to be separate, oppositional concepts, but rather two perspectives on a common whole.

Universal wheel Lakota Sioux

Universal Wheel – medicine shield

Universal wheel and medicine shield, as a whole, represents the universe. The four quadrants signify prayer, innocence, spirit and far sight. The feathers attached to the shield represent wisdom, introspection, and the healing powers of the shaman. The two half-moons in the center of the shield represent the dual nature of man.

Haokah Lakota Sioux symbol


Haokah is an important figure in the mythologies of many Native American tribes. He is the god of contradictory behavior and responsible for the content of dreams. He is said to be ‘unnatural’. Haokah’s symbol is the lance of contradiction.

Wakan Lakota Sioux symbol


Wakan is a Sioux concept, referring to the spirit of all things and their energy. In this symbol, a man calls upon the wakan spirits (which may be good, or bad) using a hand gesture. The Sioux mythology states that all things are ultimately connected as one spirit (Wakan Tanka).

Shaman to the Sky Lakota Sioux symbol

Shaman to the Sky

The Shaman to the Sky symbol depicts an Ojibwa shaman who has been granted the power to reach the sky. The lines above his head represent spiritual knowledge. According to the Ojibwa mythology, there exists more than one sky, and this is represented by multiple circles.


Medicine Wheel Four Huts Lakota Sioux symbol

Medicine Wheel Four Huts

The medicine wheel contains seven stones, representing seven stars, seven arrows, or seven human traits: fear, courage, love, sorrow. The final three universal traits are said to be unknown. Combined, they represent either human nature, or the true nature of the individual. The four tents, evenly spaced around the perimeter, represent four predestined paths: those who will have far sight, those who will be innocent, who will be introspective, and those who will be knowledgeable.

Tortoise Umbilical Bag Lakota Sioux symbol

Tortoise Umbilical Bag

In the Sioux mythology, the Tortoise Umbilical Bag carries the world on its back. Tortoises are also responsible for shepherding newborn babies into the world. This symbol depicts a Tortoise with an umbilical cord attached to it. The Tortoise Umbilical Bag represents life and birth and is associated with young children.

Stone medicine wheel Lakota Sioux symbol

Stone Medicine Wheel

The Stone Medicine Wheel contains seven stones, representing seven stars, seven arrows, or seven human traits: fear, courage, love, sorrow. The final three universal traits are said to be unknown. Combined, they represent either human nature, or the true nature of the individual.

Medicine Arrows Lakota Sioux symbol

Medicine Arrows

In the Medicine Arrows symbol, each of the arrows points inwards, representing one of the cardinal compass points, and also wisdom (North), innocence (South), far sight (East), and introspection (West). The arrows are enclosed within a medicine wheel. Joined in the middle of the wheel, the center point represents enlightenment.

Uname Lakota Sioux symbol


The Uname is a Lakota Sioux holy symbol, consisting of a square – representing the Earth – and diagonal lines emanating from each corner, representing the wind that blows from the four cardinal compass points.

Thunderbird Lakota Sioux symbols


The thunderbird is common to all Native American mythology. The thunderbirds are responsible for rain, lightning, and stormy weather. The eagle is considered to be the earthly representative of the mythical thunderbird. Offerings were made to the thunderbird of tobacco when the crops needed rain.

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