In the world of Indigenous people, Thunderbird is a symbol of power,
strength and nobility and a special envoy of Father Sky
and the Ancestors. I
am often asked if I was named after the car!
that because my Ancestors were here first, the car was named after
me. That's my story and
I'm sticking to it!
Thunderbird's normal role is to act on behalf of those who are weaker than
himself. He is unafraid to challenge greater powers than himself, although
they are few and far between (Mother Earth and Father Sky being two of
them), and to assist The People with their everyday lives. He is rather
reclusive and prefers not to have anyone near his home which is high up in
the mountains. If people come to close, he sends huge shards of ice and snow
tumbling down the mountains (avalanches). Also, in his need for
solitude he surrounds himself often with great darkness and fog so he cannot
as a sound that follows a flash of lightning,
caused by the sudden heating
and expansion of air by electrical discharge. A gifted Native Storyteller
would offer a more vivid, yet similar explanation which, again, shows the
close relationship between modern scientific enquiry and the deep knowledge
held by Turtle Island's ancient peoples.
Pacific Northwest version:
Thunderbird is the most powerful of all the
supernatural creatures and an important crest on the Pacific Northwest
Coast. He is a majestic presence; under his huge wing span are two shards of
lightening each with the head of a snake. When Thunderbird blinks his red
eyes, lightening flashes, when he moves his giant wings the air rolls
messages of impending change(s) across the sky; the wind and rain follow to
implement the change(s) and cleanse Mother Earth. It also reminds humans to
not be afraid to acknowledge the changes coming in their lives; it is always
better to step forward with courage to meet those changes, rather than cower
in a corner and wait for things to happen. Thunderbird is powerful energy
and medicine that demands humans to listen to the rhythms of the Earth Mother and to their own inner
as a flash of light in the sky caused by the discharge of atmospheric
electricity from one cloud to another or between a cloud and the earth. It
originates some 20,000 feet above sea level and makes its way toward the
earth in a series of 'steps', hence its unique shape.
Pacific Northwest version:
Thunderbird rose from his sleep and started to
makes his way across the sky.
He was surrounded by soft clouds. He shook his huge wings to wake
himself up with a rumbled song. Under his wings the two lightning snakes
that were also asleep roused themselves and looked around. A flash of red
fire was seen as Thunderbird blinked his eyes. At the same time they felt
the shudder of the huge wing span as Thunderbird jerked his body and sent
the lightning snakes flashing towards earth. Grandfather Sky lit up with the
spiral flow of their journey and the message was received by those who chose
to see and hear it.
When Thunderbird was hungry
he ate whales and otters. Thunderbird grasped the two Lightning Snakes under
its wings and threw them down onto a surfacing whale. Thunderbird then
swooped down and picked it up in its talons and flew with it to the
mountains to devour it. Knowing of its skill in striking whales, a whale
hunter would paint a Lightening Snake on his canoe, and then paint over the
image so it would not be seen by the whale so it wouldn't be scared away.
The mere power of its presence on the canoe would aid the hunter to
make a strike.
day, Orca swam into a bay and the Salmon were frightened
away. Soon the people began to starve and called out to the Thunderbird for
help. Thunderbird swooped down, grabbed orca and carried him
out to sea. The Salmon returned and the people were no longer hungry.
Thus the Thunderbird was known as a protector of the people and deeply
revered. In return for his help, The People agreed to honour
Thunderbird at their ceremonies and make him one of their highest crests.
This is not to say that Orca, another very powerful spirit did not battle
hard. It is said that on one memorable occasion Thunderbird and Orca fought
so hard the thunder from their battle caused many trees to shatter and fall,
which explains the treeless areas near the coastal mountains.
Thunderbird flew around the moon. It was one of those crisp nights when the
warm months were waning to a time of rest for Mother Earth. The silver
Grandmother was not full, because part of her was resting and waiting for its
time to shine. Parts of her needed to rest each cycle because her job
Thunderbird was restless feeling a need to be free from the
dark thoughts that had been crowding his mind. He was worried about The
People. They were fighting among themselves, not treating each other in a
good way, raising fists in anger and voices in rage. They were not listening
to him even though he could be very, very loud. He knew the Earth Mother was
also sad at this turn of events because hate, disrespect and jealousy
had not been built into the original world.
He looked at the silver
Grandmother and heard a voice. "Do not fear, my son for there will come a
time when the bonds that hold The People in this dark void will fall away
and once more they will dance into the light of understanding and
enchantment. Continue to send them your rumbling messages of care and
protection. They need you and will hear you in their time." Thunderbird was
content that his job had been reaffirmed.
"Listen to my song. I speak when the weather is warm. I bring lightning, ride
it to a more enlightened consciousness. I bring change to the world, to
individual life. Listen to my song for I carry the history of your people.
Listen to my song, we are in the seventh fire and great change is coming.