The Importance of Humility

We will make a tobacco offering here


Tobacco for Thunder Birds

Related terms:


Ojibwe Language


The ‘bird figure’ they hung up to which they’d sing. They used to make these bird figures. It would hang underneath the flag. There they’d leave it. They’d sing it with the bird facing them. This is what the old men did.

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Eagle Saves the World

Larry Aitken, tribal historian at Leech Lake, tells the story of long ago when the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people were in crisis and the Creator considered destroying the world. Migizi (eagle) flys to Creator's world bearing a message from the people to beg for his mercy. In order to fly by the sun to reach ishpiming (above world), where Creator resides, migizi is transformed from an eagle into animikii (thunderbird). Because Migizi is so brave and true of heart, Creator tells him that he will send teachers to help the Aninshinaabeg (Ojibwe people). This is why migizi (eagle) is seen as Creator's messenger and a manifestation of animikii (thunderbird).

Thunderbird Story

Description coming soon!

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.

Naamiwan's Dream Helper

This is a story about a Medicine Man named Naamiwan (Fairwind) and his relationship to a bineshiishikaan, a carved image of a thunderbird. The thunderbird was Naamiwan's bawaagan (dream visitor), who bestowed the power to heal upon Naamiwan.

In 1933, the anthropologist A. Irving Hallowell interviewed and photographed Naamiwan, who was then in his 80's. In the photograph of Naamiwan and the thunderbird carving, Naamiwan's grandson, Charlie George Owen, is standing directly behind the carving.

Maureen Matthews, Curator of Ethnology at the Manitoba Museum, interviewed Charlie George Owen (Omishoosh) several times during the 1990s, often with Margaret Simmons and Roger Roulette translating. Omishoosh told remarkable stories of his grandfather bringing him back to life using his drum. Photos of the drum and further interviews with Omishoosh can be found in this archive.

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