Context: Informant is a member of the Mvskoke tribe. Although informant does not live within an indigenous community, and is about half native, they connect with their native culture through their mother’s heritage and traditions.
Informant: “The Thunderbird was something that I just always knew while I was growing up? Like how you don’t necessarily remember your parents teaching you like colors or your name you just grew up and it was integrated into your life. Different tribes and nations have their own interpretations of the Thunderbird, but it’s pretty universally a symbol of protection, often against bad spirits. It’s also important to note that not every “Native” symbol, story, etc. applies to every Indigenous person and community, but the Thunderbird is one that a lot of us from various Native cultures were taught about/have connections to. The Thunderbird is essentially an absolutely giant bird most closely resembling an eagle. You’ll see it on jewelry or pendants, etc. as a symbol of strength or protection as well! My tribe doesn’t have a lot of specific ties to the Thunderbird beyond viewing it as a symbol of protection, but there are others that have deep history and beliefs around it, including things like where it lives, different forms it can take on, what it means to see it in visions or dreams, etc. but since my tribe is a little more distantly connected to it it’s not my place to try and give super specifics!”
Background Information: Informant has a lot of respect for their native culture, and was happy to teach me about it.
Thoughts: The Thunderbird is interesting since it appears in multiple Indigenous tribe cultures. It’s interesting to see how this folklore will liken some tribes to one another, while creating distinctions among others. As the informant states, it is very important to remember that each tribe is very distinct and to not view the individual tribes as an overall ‘indigenous population.’ However, with this in mind, it is interesting to see the shared lore of different tribes. Even informant, who did not grow up within an indigenous community, knew the Thunderbird the same way all children know colors. The Thunderbird seems to be a thing of power, respect, dignity, and a unifying front for a diverse population of native Northern Americans