The Thunderbird


Facts and information about the History and Culture of Native Americans including the subject of the legendary Thunderbird.

Many of the Pictures and Images of Native Americans on this website depict Indians with full war paint in different shapes, colors, symbols and designs. One of the symbols or designs was created to represent the Thunderbird. Each tribe had its own designs and painted their bodies and faces for rituals, dances and for battle. However, the Thunderbird is most closely associated with the Totem Poles of the Northwest tribes.

Native American Culture
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Native American Culture - The Thunderbird
Many of the pictures and images of Native Americans depict the Indians in full war paint. Many tribes of Native Americans painted their bodies and faces for rituals, dances and for battle. The designs painted were believed to hold magical powers, such as the Thunderbird.

The Myths and Legends of the Thunderbird
The Native American Indians believed in a powerful spirit called the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird is a huge, legendary creature in the history of many of the indigenous people North American especially in the cultures of the Northwest Coast, Great Plains Indians and Southwest Indian tribes. The legend of the Thunderbird is derived from the common belief that the creature creates storms and the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind. Lightning was believed to flash from its eyes or beak. The Sioux Indian name for the Thunderbird is is Wakyą which translates as wakha, meaning "sacred" and kįya, meaning "winged". The Thunderbird was believed to live in nests of stone on the tops of high mountains which were constantly shrouded in clouds. The mortal enemy of Thunderbird was the Great Serpent who lived below the waters. The lightning bolts of the Thunderbird were used to try and tame him.

The Myths and Legends of the Thunderbird - A Sign of Victory
The Thunderbird is known as the Skyamsen to tribes of the Northwest and is revered as the dominating force of all natural activity. The Thunderbird has an important role in the creation myth as a Destroyer and Controller of Nature and it was believed that the Thunderbird must be honored and appeased. As a destroyer this legendary creature was viewed by some tribes as an omen of war when the sound of thunder was heard. Thunder was believed to be a sign the spirits were at war in the skies but this also foretold of victory for tribal wars fought on the ground.

The Thunderbird Symbol
The following Lightening Symbol can be see in the above picture depicting the sign of the Thunderbird, painted in red, on an Iowa warrior. The Zig-Zag symbol represented lightning which is strongly associated with the Thunderbird and was believed to add power and speed to the warrior together with victory in battle.

Lightening symbol 

Another sign is believed to be used as the Thunderbird Symbol.

Thunderbird Symbol              

Totem Pole ThunderbirdThunderbird Float

The Thunderbird on Totem Poles and Figures
The thunderbird was often portrayed with an additional head on its abdomen, especially on Totem poles and carved figures, as shown in the adjacent picture. The thunderbird was frequently accompanied by less important bird spirits. Thunderbirds were particularly sought as guardian spirits because of their powers.

The Thunderbird and the Rain Dance
In Native American Indian mythology the thunderbird was believed to possess the power to water  the earth and make vegetation grow, it controlled the weather. The famous Sun Dance, also referred to as the Rain Dance, centred around the mythology and legend of the Thunderbird. During the dance the Indians danced around a central pole. At the top of the pole was the nest of the Thunderbird. The Sacred Thunderbird was represented by the mighty Eagle who is the messenger for prayers sent to the Great Mystery or
Great Spirit.



Native American Culture - Thunderbird

  • Native American legends and myths for kids
  • Culture and History of Native Indians
  • Interesting facts and info about Thunderbird for kids and schools
  • Information about Thunderbird
  • Native American Culture - Thunderbird for kids

Thunderbird - Pictures and Videos of Native Americans
Thunderbird. Discover the vast selection of pictures which relate to the History and Culture of Native Americans. The pictures show the clothing, War Paint, weapons and decorations of various Native Indian tribes that can be used as a really useful educational history resource for kids and children of all ages. We have included pictures and videos to accompany the main topic of this section - Thunderbird. The videos enable fast access to the images, paintings and pictures together with information and many historical facts. All of the articles and pages can be accessed via the Native Indian Tribes Index - a great educational resource for kids.


Teaching resource - Teachers - Kids - Thunderbird - Native American Culture - Indian - Religion - Culture - Beliefs - Traditional - Indians - Ceremonies - Beliefs - Dances - Dancing - Ceremony - Festival - Festivals - Customs - Custom - Kids - Pictures - Info - Information - Tribe - Tribes - Native Americans - Native American Indian - People - Guide - Studies - Native American Culture - Thunderbird - Written By Linda Alchin

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