Was the Mythical Thunderbird a Real Creature?

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on February 19th, 2015

Perhaps the most elusive and legendary among America’s mythical creatures is the thunderbird, a giant eagle-like bird with incredible strength. This creature has been reported throughout the Midwest and a particular case in Illinois included a dangerously close encounter.

The legend of the Thunderbird is present throughout the American Midwest and has many incarnations among the Native American tribes that once lived and continue to live throughout this land.

The Sioux Nation, particularly, the Brule Sioux tribe of southwest South Dakota on the Rosebud Reservation, has a thunder bird legend known as “Wakinyan Tanka,” or the “Great Thunderbird,” according to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI).

To this tribe, the Thunderbird isn’t a mythical giant bird, but a group of non-physical beings that lived in the Black Hills. Clothed in clouds, the Thunderbird men are formless and their colors correspond to the four cardinal points; the Thunderbird of the west is black, the one of the east is yellow, red for the north, and white for the south. They are giants with four-jointed wings. In place of feet are enormous claws with a huge beak in place of a face with sharp, pointed teeth.

Unlike other accounts of giant birds, they represent a demeanor of goodness and are seen as guides and agents of change. They love what is pure and clean in the world.

“From time to time a holy man catches a glimpse of a Wakinyan in his dreams, but always only a part of it. No one ever sees the Thunderbird whole, not even in a vision, so the way we think a Thunderbird looks is pieced together from many dreams and visions,” said Brule Medicine Man John “Fire” Lame Deer in 1969, according to CSI.

The Yaqui tribe tells a different story in the tale of the “Otam Kawi.” In their tales, a giant bird lived in the hills of Otam Kawi and would periodically fly out in search of food, carrying away men, women, and children. This came to be such a problem, that the Yaqui people feared even having fiestas and ceremonial dances for fear that the bird would swoop down and carry one of them off.

Read the rest of the story here.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

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