Death of the Thunderbirds

by Frank Keim

A long time ago two giant thunderbirds used to have their nest in the mountains above Ohagmiut. They were always very hungry, and people were warned not to wear their parkas with the fur side out for fear of attracting the attention of the great birds.

One day, just before going on a hunt a man told his wife to be sure to wear her parka with the fur on the inside if she went down to the river for anything. Later in the day, though, when she went down to get some river water his wife forgot the warning and wore her parka with the fur side out. Sure enough, just as she was getting the water a thunderbird swooped down and picked her up and took her back to its nest where she was then fed to the hungry baby birds.

When the woman’s husband returned home that evening and she wasn’t there, he went down to the river searching for her. It was there he found evidence of the struggle between the giant bird and his wife.

After fetching his bow and arrows, he immediately set out in search of his wife. Figuring the thunderbird had taken her to its nest, he began climbing up the mountain near Ohagmiut. Not far from the nest he saw the two adult birds flying around and he shot at them with his bow to frighten them away. After reaching the nest, he peered inside and noticed there were six young birds. He also found the horribly mangled remains of his wife. So he angrily killed all the young birds and went back down the mountain determined to find and destroy the other two adults.

He had seen them heading in the direction of St. Michael on the coast of Norton Sound. So he searched for them over there. It took many weeks to find them and settle his score, but eventually he shot and killed one and then the other. When in later years people found the remains of a wing of one of the dead thunderbirds, they said it was so huge that a man could fit inside the hollows of the feathers.


This was told to me by Nick Isaac who got it from his dad Alexander Isaac who once lived in the old village of Ohagmiut – Frank Keim