They are usually depicted as giant bird-like beings with colossal wings and sharp claws. They are so big they could pick up a killer whale. They were known to Native Americans for their legendary strength and power. They govern the weather and their voice is thunder and lightening flashes from their eyes.
The legend of Wakinyan Tanka, the Great Thunderbird describes these beings as good spirits, guardians of truth and protectors of men and where sacred and highly regarded by the Lakota people. Different tribes had several other stories depicting the giant bird. Some tribes view the Thunderbird as an omen of war. When thunder rattle the heavens, it’s a sign the spirits are warring in the skies. This was also a foretelling of victory for tribal wars fought on the ground especially when ritual ceremonies and dances were adhered to. As they are attributed with the ability to either create or destroy, it is believed they gave life or caused death. This made them a very prominent, powerful symbol to many Native American tribes.