Ask the Elders: A Glimpse of Creator's Powers

Thunderbirds are one of the powerful spirit beings in the Anishinaabe / Ojibwe cosmology. Larry Aitkens, Tribal Historian for the Leech Lake Band of Anishinaabe, tells stories about a birch bark container at the Penn Museum inscribed with pictographs of a thunderbird / animikii,with lightning coming out of its eyes, and a buffalo / mashkode-bizhiki to Gideon Powell sitting on his father Tim's lap. When thunderbird / animikii opens its eyes, lightning strikes. To many Anishinaabe, however, the thunderbird is associated with positive forces and often carries messages from the Creator. In this story, thunderbird / animikii transforms itself into an eagle whose powers are recounted here. Eagle feathers and pictographs inscribed on birchbark are animate, empowered objects, which require a knowledge of traditional Anihshinaabe protocols to be able to handle.