The Thunderbirds

 "If you find fear in your heart, go into the mountains. Stand high on the peak and watch the storm come over the horizon. See the lightning and hear the thunder and know that all this power is small compared to the power of the Great Spirit (Great Bird) to guide you upon your path."

-- Algonquin Proverb -- 

In our old M├ętis-Algonquin worldview from Kitchizibi Territory (Ottawa River Valley) the "Great Bird" is known as the Thunderbird. Oiseau Rock, French for Bird Rock, on the Kitchizibi (Ottawa River) was actually Thunderbird Rock.

The Thunderbird is the largest or greatest bird. The Thunderbird is called the Great Bird because it represents the Great Spirit of the Creator in bird-like form. It's believed that the Thunderbird is so large - so great - it needs the whole universe to have enough space to fly around freely. 

The Thunderbird also comes to Earth and Bird (Thunderbird) Mountain is a place the Thunderbird is believed to have built a great stone nest. Interestingly there are numerous massive stone boulders situated at the top of the mountain that confirms this. Geologists call them glacial erratics but there's more to the story! 

Long ago the Great Spirit sent great birds, the thunderbirds, to earth to help with the creation of life. But when they arrived all they saw was rock; no trees had been created yet. So in order for the thunderbirds to have nests they had to make their nests with stones. With their talons they picked up massive boulders and stones. They flew up to mountain tops, landed, and then arranged those big stones circularly into great stone thunderbird nests.

Later in time human beings arrived; the First People. Their old "bird shamans" knew the old legends about the coming of the thunderbirds to Earth. So to gain the natural power of those original thunderbirds who had come to help the Great Spirit, the human bird shamans themselves called upon the thunderbirds for help. These bird shamans learned to followed suit and by using stones they too made their own thunderbird/shaman nests or "vision pits" to use in a spiritual manner for doing healing work and vision quests out in nature.

It's for this practical, rock-solid reason that our early bird shamans came to be called thunderbirds. Now secure within their nests the thunderbirds/shamans could receive guidance, dreams and visions from the Spirits of Nature that encompassed them on Earth or from their ancestors now in the Sky World. And here they could also do their thunderbird medicine work to help people with the struggle of human life on earth. 

Thunderbird nests are still used by people for spiritual guidance, to do personal medicine work and to leave gifts/offerings for the Spirits of Nature. People also use nests to do fasting and vision quests whereby they receive guidance from wild animal spirits, ancestor spirits and the Great Spirit of Nature itself. This includes connecting with the living spirits of birds - the fliers - like songbirds, woodpeckers, crows, ravens, hawks, vultures, eagles and of course the thunderbirds and the Great Bird too! Natural human "bird shamanism" is alive and well at the thunderbird nest atop Bird Mountain!