The wanbli — eagle — is a winged symbol for the Lakota (Sioux) people.
The eagle is the strongest and bravest of all birds. For this reason, Native Americans have chosen the eagle and its feathers as a symbol of what is highest, bravest, strongest and holiest.
An eagle's feathers are given to another in honor, and the feathers are worn with dignity and pride. They are treated with great respect.
When an eagle feather is dropped during a American Indian dance, a special ceremony is performed to pick it up again, and the owner is careful to never drop it again.
An eagle feather is also used to adorn the sacred pipe because it is a symbol of the Lakota (Sioux) Great Spirit who is above all and from whom all strength and power flows.
Eagle feathers or wings are used in special ways. For instance, when they are held over someone's head, it means the person is brave or is wished bravery and happiness. To wave it over everyone present means everyone is wished peace, prosperity and happiness.
(This story was adapted from Ron Zeilinger's Lakota Life.)