The CAIRNS logo contains several layers of meaning that reflect different aspects of our mission statement. The central disk of the logo is quartered by four converging arrows. The arrows represent diverse viewpoints coming together at a common meeting ground. They also depict the four directions that characterize Lakota cosmology as well as the Four Rs of our work: Rigor, Reliability, Respect and Relevance. Just as collaborative initiatives between individuals create a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate efforts, a four-pointed star is created by the confluence of the four arrows.  The star evokes the traditional relationship between Lakotas and stars while simultaneously representing the north star, an unwavering guide toward which our work is oriented. Moreover, the overlap of the arrow ends are four diagrammatic tipis, or lodges, reinforcing that CAIRNS is a gathering place.

The black disk itself symbolizes a rising sun. The white crescent that encircles most of it is an implied moon. Thus, the sun, moon and stars are all represented in the logo. However, the black sun is not a complete circle. Instead, the notch near its bottom emphasizes an axis that aligns with two of the arrows and the central star. The “S” of our organization’s acronym is one end of the axis, signifying South and orienting the arrows to the four cardinal directions, which are associated with the Four Winds of Lakota cosmology.

Around the crescent are stylized fingers and a thumb depicting an open hand conveying friendship. More specifically, it is a left hand with the central disk in its palm. Lakota tradition assigned preference to the left as opposed to the right. The fingers and thumb are reminiscent of feathers, which are meaningful symbols in Lakota philosophy that signify important relationships and accomplishments.

Beneath the hand is our acronym, CAIRNS. As a noun, a cairn is a pile of stones erected to mark a path or location, and can be found in places around the world. The Four Winds in Lakota tradition are quadruplet brothers who erected a cairn at each of the cardinal directions, beginning at the west then moving in a sunwise direction to the north, east and south. Therefore the west arrow of the logo aligns with the first letter of our acronym.

Every aspect of the CAIRNS logo is thoughtfully arranged so as to reinforce both the explicit and implicit orientations of our mission statement. We strive to align everything we do with the same thoughtfulness and attention to detail.

The Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS) is an Indian-controlled nonprofit research and education center . . .