NEWS STORIES - Updated 3/7/17

THE THUNDER BIRD RAIN MEDICINE by Marion N. Bruce This is the story of the Thunder Birds and the Thunder Bird Rain Medicine, as told by the old people of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, the Arikara and the Hidatsa. The three tribes live on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation which lies some 100 miles up the Missouri River from Bismarck, North Dakota.

A long time ago, two massive eagles, called the Thunder Birds, ranged along Missouri Basin in the vicinity of what is now the Fort Berthold Reservation. These birds nested on the top of a butte, now known as Thunder Butte, which is some 30 miles southwest of New Town, North Dakota. This butte rises some 200 feet above the surrounding area.

As told by the old people, in flight the wings of the Thunder Bird would extend from bluff to bluff across the Missouri River, a distance of a mile or more. Their wings had a linkage of seven joints, and their tail feathers were composed of eight layers. Bolts of lightning could be seen flashing from their wings.

Now these Eagles had a problem (don't we all). Each year after they had nested and laid eggs, a serpent would devour the eggs. This serpent ("snake in the grass") was so large he could uncoil and reach up and over the butte and rob the nest.

As the legend is told, and was retold from generation to generation, that after years of disappointment of the would-be-parents, two brave Shoshoni young men came to the rescue. However, this happy year for the Thunder Birds, these two young warriors stood guard by the nest after the eggs were laid. The fatal day for the snake's annual raid came. The young men were startled to see poised above them and over the nest, the wide open jaws of the huge serpent, tongue flicking, cruel fangs and cold gleaming eyes ready to pounce on the eggs. The brave young men stood their ground and quickly launched their arrows in the throat of the snake. In short they killed that snake, and saved the nest and the eggs of the Thunder Birds.

The Thunder Birds were very happy, and in gratitude they conferred on the two young Shoshonis (in their teens) the power to make rain. The Thunder Bird Medicine is conceded by Indians of the Northern Tribes to be the Power House rain medicine, compared to the many other rain medicines. The impression I have, it is like comparing a 15 inch Naval Gun to a 22 calibre rifle.

The two Shoshoni men, as all mortals do, long ago passed away to the Happy Hunting Grounds, and doubtless they now use their medicine to keep the buffalo pastures green.

Their medicine has been handed down through the years, and is now the possession of the Water Busters Clan of the Fort Berthold Reservation. This small select group of ten or twelve men possess the secrets of the Thunder Bird medicine and the bundle itself.

The bundle consists of two human skulls, wrapped in a piece of buffalo hide. The skulls are those of the two Shoshoni men who killed the snake. (Note: some skeptic whites who have examined the skulls claim they are the skulls of young women, and not men. Pay them no mind - there are always people who scoff, as we people in the weather modification business well know. I sometimes think the scoffers are descended from the snake that was killed at Thunder Butte.)

This, my friends, concludes most of what I was told by my Indian friends about the Thunder Bird Indian Medicine. I do have a story to tell of the more recent history of the Thunder Bird Medicine, how it was lost and later recovered, and used to break the drought of the thirties.

It is unfortunate that we did not get this second story recorded before Marion Bruce passed on.

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