The Thunderbird is the symbol of the Ojibwe people.
Considered the most powerful of all Mantious (spirits) it is only second to Kitchi-Manitou, the Creator, or as we know it, ''The Great Mystery".
Of all the Manitou's who presided over the destinies and affairs of humankind, none was more revered for its potency and preeminence than the thunderbird. Many manitous were once men and women, but the thunderbirds had always been manitous, from the beginning of time, dwelling in the mountains and serving Mother Earth behind clouds that they themselves generated.
The manitous and totems of Mother Earth, the thunderbirds were created by Kitchi-Manitou to tend to Mother Earth's health and well-being, to give her drink when she is thristy, to cleanse her form and her garments when she needs refreshments, to keep fertile and fruitful, and to stoke fires to regenerate the forests. From early spring to late fall, the thunderbirds were vigilant in tending to Mother Earth, and in winter, they rested.'
The Anishinaabe people believed that the thunderbirds looked like and were kin to the eagles, and that eagles might be thunderbirds in disguise, passing from the heights and ascending into the sky until they are seen no more. Thunderbirds were being of mystery and power and good. Yet they were to be feared.
Days before the thunderbirds began their preparations to cleanse Mother Earth, the owls and other night birds warned one another that the thunderbirds were stirring and that they were about to open the floodgates and let loose fire bolts, and they urged one another to take shelter.
And as the thunderbirds stoked the fires in their forges, great dark clouds billowed, and small birds and animals took shelter just before the floodgates were opened and the flaming arrows were unleashed. The thunderbirds were indifferent to animals or humans.
Most men and women had nothing but the highest respect for thunderbirds, but there were a few who longed to go to the thunderbirds', to set eyes on these manitous, and trusted that the thunderbirds would not be too offended by their trespassing. Perhaps some believed that they could enter the manitou's domain, as they could infiltrate an enemy's camp, and leave unnoticed.
Those who dared intrude on the sanctuary of the thunderbirds never came back to their to their families and homes. They were destroyed.
Though men and women could not enter the world of thunderbirds, these manitous occasionally came down from their sanctuary disguised as human beings.
When the Anishinaubaek gave thanks to the Earth, they reflected on the land and the waters, the forests and the fields, the mountains and the valleys, the winds and colors, and all their animal cotenants on the Earth. Mother Earth in all her forms and conditions was what the celebrants meant when they offered the second whiff of tobacco incense. It was the Earth in its entirety, not just a portion of it, that men and women considered when they thought of Mother Earth.
This is why the thunderbirds protected Mother Earth, and everything else was of no importance to them. Mother Earth, was the womb from which we all came, and for her to be harmed was not something that the thunderbirds could accept. For if MotherEarth, in all her splendor, was harmed, then all of mankind, birds, animals, fish, insects and all other living creatures could not longer survive.
We have harmed Mother Earth over the centuries, and we still do. Perhaps it is time for the thunderbirds to direct their anger and power at us, the unthinking humans that are on a path to destory our mother.
Part of this were taken from Basil Johnston book, ''Mantious, The Spiritual World of the Ojibway''. Basil Johnston is an Ojibway scholar who lives in Ontario, Canada, on the Cape Croker Indian Reserve, where he spent part of his childhood. A recipient of the Order of Ontario and an honorary doctorate from the University of Toranto, he speak and writes in both Ojibway and English and is author of numerous books.
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