Star of Voyageurs Poster: Should it be our Symbol?

All my life I heard about bald eagles. I saw them in paintings, as statues, on coins – everywhere but real life. Then we entered Voyageurs National Park, a paradise for our National Bird. Not only can you lose yourself in a canoe on the water, you can make it a scavenger hunt by paddling around the islands on Kabetogama Lake in search of eagles. There’s even a Bald Eagle Island, and yes we saw many.

We knew the eagle would be the star of our latest Centennial Poster who you see perched here atop a tree with many of the islands in the backdrop. While drafting this article, I intended to write about why the eagle is a great symbol for the United States.

Centennial Poster #12 out of 59. Based on original hand sketches and photos we took in Voyageurs NP.

Eagles are strong, brave, and they persevere. After all, they’ve had a comeback after near extinction when habitat loss and DDT (an insecticide) threatened their very existence.

But then I questioned this symbol.

Eagles are predators, and the act of preying on other beings is not something a country should stand for, if you really think into the matter. No doubt it’s the natural cycle of life – nature can be cruel – but humans are intelligent animals who have the ability to reason and can survive without being predators. There should be no sign of predation in society, where some people become victims, but unfortunately it’s at every corner and on every news channel.


Reading the map on Bald Eagle Island, Voyageurs.
Reading the map on Bald Eagle Island, Voyageurs.

No doubt, the eagle is an impressive and beautiful creature, demanding admiration and respect.

Yet we’ve come a long way since 1782, when the eagle became our symbol. And so as times change I question if the eagle accurately represents this diverse nation.

So if not the eagle, who else could represent the U.S.?

I would propose the herbivore beaver.

Bull, Charles Livingston, 1874-1932, artist | Cabinet of American illustration (Library of Congress)

Seems kind of funny – I know – but hear me out:

Like the eagle, beaver have bounced back from near extinction after being trapped relentlessly for their pelts in the 18th and 19th centuries. Beaver are also strong and impressive with their ability to endure cold winters and fell large trees. These creatures are extremely clever and creative in the way they dam waterways and build their lodges. Their work also benefits many other species and healthy habitats. Did you know they even build a vent hole and multiple rooms in their lodges? Clever, clever!

Beyond their building mastery, beaver are social animals who live in families with monogamous parents. They mate for life. Plus they eat plain old wood – talk about making due with little.

All in all, beaver are extraordinary role models. They are self-sufficient, tough, hard working, family oriented and loyal creatures who do not kill other animals to survive. Sounds pretty inspiring to me.

But we know the National Bird will not change anytime soon, and that’s perfectly okay.

Click to view details about this print, 10% of profit is donated to the Voyageurs National Park Association.
Click to view details about this print, 10% of profit is donated to the Voyageurs National Park Association.

The mighty bald eagle will always have a special place in our hearts, and we’re happy to commemorate him in the Voyageur’s poster.

Check it out in our shop, and let us know what you think – could you see the beaver representing the U.S.?


  1. Karla,

    I’m afraid this country is a meat eating (killing animals left and right) culture that does very very little for the environment. In fact instead of making habitat for other animal species, we steal habitat for housing, shopping malls and super highways.

    Oh how I wish we were like the beaver, a peaceful, habitat making, vegan (except for the fur coat!!!!) that eats the bark and leaves of trees along with other wetland grasses.

    For Beaver and All,
    Owen J. Brown

    1. Owen, I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for your thoughts, I think, at least, more and more people are waking up with similar ideas. Maybe my optimism is idealistic, but there does seem to be more awareness trickling into culture, especially among younger generations. Despite the efforts of the meat and dairy industry, people are beginning to see the vast health and environmental effects of society’s cruel animal treatment. I think it’s thanks to writers, artists and health advocates speaking out – just last year I saw a documentary called Cowspiracy about the sad treatment / effects of cattle, and another about our abuse of oceans (especially seafood industry) called Mission Blue. We wouldn’t have seen those 10 years ago.

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