The feathers of the Red-tailed Hawk and the eagle are considered sacred to many Native Americans and are sometimes used in religious ceremonies and rituals. The feathers of brightly colored birds such as blue jays and cardinals were used for their medicine by spiritual leaders. The feathers of birds were highly esteemed for adornment and symbols of status. However, owl feathers symbolized death or prophesy.
Turkey feather legends
Numerous Native American Indian legends deal with birds and the origin of the various colors of feathers. The Navajo tribe believe that when all living things climbed to the stalk of a bamboo to escape the Flood, the wild turkey was on the lowest branch and his tail feathers trailed in the water. This why the feathers of the wild turkey have no color - it was all washed out.
The Indian feather war bonnet is the most famous feather headdress created by Native Americans. Not every Indian was free to wear the feather headdress. Only warriors who had displayed extra ordinary acts of bravery in the battle fields were allowed to wear one. They were therefore most often associated with the chief of a tribe, such as Chief Sitting Bull who is pictured below.