13 Art: Native American Talking Sticks

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The Talking Stick is a tool used in many Native American Traditions when a council is called. It allows all council members to present their Sacred Point of View. The Talking Stick is passed from person to person as they speak and only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk during that time period. The Answering Feather is also held by the person speaking unless the speaker address a question to another council member. At that time, the Answering Feather is passed to the person asked to answer the query. Every member of the meeting must listen closely to the words being spoken, so when their turn comes, they do not repeat unneeded information or ask impertinent questions. Indian children are taught to listen from age three forward; they are also taught to respect another’s viewpoint. This is not to say that they may not disagree, but rather they are bound by their personal honor to allow everyone their Sacred Point of View.

People responsible for holding any type council meeting are required to make their own Talking Stick. The Talking Stick may be used when they teach children, hold council, make decisions regarding disputes, hold Pow-Wow gatherings, have storytelling circles, or conduct a ceremony where more then one person will speak.

The ornamentation of each stick all have meaning. In the Lakotah Tradition, red is for life, yellow is for knowledge, blue is for prayer and wisdom, white is for spirit, purple is for healing, orange is for feeling kinship with all living things, black is for clarity and focus.

The type of feathers and hide used on a Talking Stick are very important as well. The Answering Feather is usually an Eagle Feather, which represents high ideals, truth as viewed from the expansive eye of the eagle, and the freedom that comes from speaking total truth to the best of one’s ability. The Answering Feather can also be the feather of a Turkey, the Peace Eagle of the south, which brings peaceful attitudes as well as the give and take necessary in successful completion of disputes. In the Tribe that see Owl as good Medicine, the Owl feather may also be used to stop deception from entering the Sacred Space of the Council.

EHA Supplies:

  • Stick
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Newspaper
  • String or yarn
  • Colored pencils
  • Construction paper


  1. Explain the purpose of Native American Talking Sticks.  You may want to hold a talking stick since you’ll be the one talking. 
  2. Discuss the symbolism of the colors, see bolded area above.  What are some symbols we attribute to colors?  Be sure to mention that we are NOT using the colors as a worship item or the stick as part of worship.  This is simply a talking stick.
  3. Distribute talking sticks and paper.  Students will make feathers out of the paper.
  4. Ask your students to think about what they are painting and how it represents them.
  5. Attach construction paper feathers with the yarn or string.



Posted in: art

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