Thunderbird Mask (2003)
EXHIBITION:Birds of a Feather
To the people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the huge supernatural Thunderbird was the most powerful of all the spirits. When Thunderbird was hungry, he ate killer whales. These he killed by hurling lightning snakes (which lived under his wings) down on a surfacing whale. After the hunt, Thunderbird would carry his prey to his mountain home to feast.
Thunderbird is recognized by his curved beak and presence of long, curled horns rising from his head. An immature Thunderbird is called Kolus, whose head is covered with a white down.
Many legends are associated with Thunderbird. One prominent Coast Salish legend tells of the Salish people’s great dependence on the Salmon. One day, the Killer Whale swam into the bay and the Salmon were frightened away. Soon the people began t o starve and called out to the Thunderbird for help. The Thunderbird swooped down, grabbed the Killer Whale and carried him out to the sea. The Salmon returned and the people were no longer hungry. Thus, the Thunderbird was known as a protector of the people and deeply revered.