Bird Origin Myth

retold by Richard L. Dieterle

The first birds created by Earthmaker were the Thunders, who can make themselves invisible. As the Thunderbirds traversed the heavens, they would occasionally lose a feather. From such feathers, the visible birds sprang into existence. From the largest quill feathers of the Thunders there came into being the race of eagles; from other large feathers came the race of hawks and their kind; from the small feathers came such birds as partridges; from the down feathers came the small birds like robins and pigeons; and from the mere fuzz of down feathers emerged the very smallest of birds, such as sparrows and hummingbirds. All birds, therefore, are descended from the Thunders.1

Commentary. Foster has this to say about the relationship between the two divisions of the Bird Clan:

Those named from the Thunders or Elements, who "kindled the fire," are said to have the most power, and they claim to be superior to the others. ... Those belonging to the First Thunder Family or Elemental Family are not slow to remind even the Second Thunder Family, or Visible-Bird Family, of their right of precedence ... if two whose names are of the First and Second Thunders, get into a dispute with each other, the former will sometimes end the argument contemptuously by saying, "Why, you are nothing but a feather of mine," and some will go so far as to say, "you are nothing but the fuzz of my feathers;" and even the children learn early to retort in this wise.2

However, in the making of treaties over the disposition of land, the Thunderbird Clan must give way to the Bear Clan, whatever their precedence may be in other matters.

Links: Thunderbirds, Bird Spirits, Earthmaker.

Stories: having Thunderbirds as characters: The Thunderbird, Waruǧábᵉra, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Ocean Duck, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, Brave Man, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Big Stone, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (v. 1 and v. 2), The Spirit of Gambling, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Twins Disobey Their Father, Kunu's Warpath, Turtle's Warparty, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Thunder Charm, The Boulders of Devil's Lake; mentioning pigeons: Pigeon Clan Origins, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), Waruǧábᵉra, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Lost Blanket, How the Thunders Met the Nights, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Creation Council, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The Creation of Man (v. 2), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Gottschall: A New Interpretation; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, Owl Goes Hunting, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (kaǧi, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧábᵉra, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing (black hawk, owl), Heną́ga and Star Girl (black hawk), The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth (black hawk, kaǧi), Worúxega (eagle), The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (eagle), The Gift of Shooting (eagle), Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (buzzards), The Shaggy Man (kaǧi), The Healing Blessing (kaǧi), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (kaǧi), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Story of the Medicine Rite (loons, cranes, turkeys), The Fleetfooted Man, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow.

Themes: a bird(-man) is regenerated from a single feather: Waruǧábᵉra, The Red Feather.


1 Thomas Foster, Foster's Indian Record and Historical Data (Washington, D. C.: 1876-1877) vol. 1; #1, p. 4, coll. 1, 4.

2 Foster, Foster's Indian Record, col. 4.