The Relationship Between The Cherokee Tribe And Owls

One of the foundational tenets of Native American culture is its connection to the natural world. Native Americans' relationship with nature is evident in their religion, mythology, food, art, and more, according to the Faust Gallery. In examining their way of life, you can clearly see that they have the utmost respect for the earth, its creatures, and the environment as a whole. While these Native American tribes hold the belief that all aspects of nature are sacred, animals hold a special place in their cultures.

One of the animals that were either highly worshipped or highly feared, were birds. Like many belief systems, the Cherokee believe in the concept of good versus evil — or light versus dark — and that's also true when it comes to the significance of birds in Indigenous culture. One bird that has held great significance in many Native American cultures is the owl.

Bringers of messages of death?

Owls and their symbolism in Native American culture are unique because, for some, they can be omens of death. According to Smokey Mountain News, the Cherokee people held birds in pretty high esteem, almost like they were magical. Much of their imagery focused on all types of birds, but owls held their own significance.

There are three different types of owls that are mentioned in Cherokee folklore and they all symbolize different things, but each had some significance to warfare. The screech owl was believed to be a messenger of things to come. This owl and its calls became extremely significant during times of conflict or war because they believed it would predict the outcome. 

However, the most well-known owl in Cherokee culture was the great horned owl. "Tsligi" as it was known, was believed to be an evil omen and was even associated with witches and dark forces. They were viewed as having dark mysterious powers and may not actually be birds at all, but shapeshifters instead, according to Center of the West. As potential harbingers of spooky spirits and even death, the Cherokee and other tribes still have a healthy respect for the owl species.