With a whopping $5.00 on the line, Hopkins' character calmly recites that the image on the other side of the blade is rabbit smoking a pipe.
Elaborating on this native tradition, Hopkins later explains that the rabbit is smoking a pipe because he is unafraid; the rabbit is unafraid because he is smarter than the panther. This brief exchange serves as foreshadowing for the events ahead in the film...which features a very angry Grizzly bear later on...but that's another scene.
The symbol of the confident rabbit has been reincarnated in modern times as the Trademarked logo of Mad River Canoe company. A page on their site describes the legend further...
Native American legend has it that Rabbit was a great hunter and a bit of a trickster, but most of all Rabbit was confident in his abilities. So confident in fact, that even as Lynx circles the fern, planning his attack, Rabbit is free to enjoy his pipe, secure in his abilities to avoid this mortal enemy.To film mentions that this is specifically a Cree legend, but that may be a bit of artistic license. Adney describes the decoration used on Malecite canoes on pages 86-87 in Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America It also seems that this imagery featured prominantly in the Passamaquoddy birchbark artwork of Tomah Joseph. Ferdy Goode posted some great pics of this Wooden Canoe forums.