This symbol is used by many Native American tribes. It was first used by the Mississippian culture which was around in 800 CE to 1600 CE. The mound builders had Thunderbird masks with horns. The horns represented spiritual power.
In some tribes the Thunderbird symbolized war. It was believed that the Thunderbird would flap its wings and create thunder and shoot lightning bolts from its eyes. Thunder could foretell war. It was also believed that the tribe hearing the thunder would win the war.
Native Americans on the West coast believed that the Thunderbird ruled all natural activity. If hunters got too close to the Thunderbird’s home he would create thunder by flapping his wings and shoot lightning out of his eyes. The Thunderbird helps crops grow by producing rain. The Thunderbird is always placed on top of their totem poles.
The Menominee tribe believes that the Thunderbirds are messengers of the Great Sun that control the rain and hail. The Thunderbirds are on the earth to keep the great horned snakes from overrunning the earth and eating mankind.
The Ojibwe tribe believes the Thunderbirds were created to fight underwater spirits and punish men who had committed moral crimes.
The Lakota Sioux believed if someone dreamed of the Thunderbird they were destined to become a sacred clown or heyoka. A sacred clown is a person who is a satirist, jester, and who acts contrary to those around him.