Myths & Legends



Coast Salish: Legend of the Thunder Birds

The Thunderbird is especially important in the art, songs and oral histories of many Pacific Northwest coastal native cultures. The Thunderbird is also found in various forms among some peoples of the American Southwest, East Coast of the United States, Great Lakes, and Great Plains.

This legend of the Thunderbirds is found in Indian Legends of Vancouver Island (Canada), a fascinating collection of stories about the customs and habits of the West Coast Indians of Vancouver Island. Little is known of its editor Alfred Carmichael.
— Orly

Words meanings in this Legend:

Kulakula is the Chinook word for Bird.

Tee-tse-kin or Tootooch is the name given by the Barkley Sound Indians to the Thunder Bird, a mighty supernatural bird in Indian mythology.

Howchulis, the land of the Howchucklesahts, is better known by the name Uchucklesit, a safe harbour on the west side of the Alberni Canal at its junction with Barkley Sound. Uchucklesit is was the centre of an important fishing industry.

Quawteaht, is a great personage in Indian mythology, a beneficent being, and considered by many to be the progenitor of their race.

Chinook is a jargon or trade language once used on the coast of British Columbia both by the Europeans in conversing with the Indians, also by the latter when talking to members of a tribe speaking a different dialect. Chinook is a combination of English, French and Indian words.



One time the "Great One," Quawteaht desiring to destroy the mighty Thunder Birds, entered the body of a whale, and swimming slowly approached Howchulis shore. The Thunder Birds espied it from their high retreat, and sweeping down made ready for the fray. First one attacked and drove his talons deep into the whale's back, then spreading his broad wings he tried to rise. Then Quawteaht gave strength to the great whale, which sounded, dragging the Tee-tse-kin beneath the waves. Up came the whale; a second Thunder Bird with all his force drove his strong claws deep into the quivering flesh. Then Quawteaht a second time gave strength and down the mammal plunged dragging with him the second Thunder Bird. A third was drowned in manner similar. Thereat the fourth and last Tootooch took wing and fled to distant heights, where he has ever since remained.

This is the story of the Thunder Birds.


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