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Native American Legends

Grandfather Thunder

An American Indian Legend - Nation Unknown

Muxumsa Pethakowe, our Grandfather the Thunder, was father of the first people, and the Moon was the first mother. But Maxa'xâk, the evil horned serpent, destroyed the Water Keeper Spirit and loosed the waters upon the Earth and the first people were no more. Since then, the Thunderers, Pethakowe'jàk, have always been on the lookout for Maxa'xâk and other such evil water monsters, and when one appears, the Thunderers shoot their crooked, fiery lightening arrows at them, hoping to avenge the deaths of the first people and to make sure that none of the evil shall ever disturb the harmony upon the Earth or cause harm to our Lenape'wàk.

Long ago, there was a time when Grandfather Thunder was forgotten among our people, unlike Grandmother Moon who has always been remembered and honored by us. He became bitter and despondent over our neglect and forgetfulness of him, and in his anger he came from his home in the west, calling out in a voice that shook the heavens and the Earth. Hidden in clouds, he crossed right over the homes and villages of our people. In his fury he shot lightening arrows at the Earth, killing people, burning houses and shattering trees, and the clouds cried their tears of sorrow upon the Earth. Luckily, he never stayed in one place too long, and usually was seen traveling towards the east.

At first he would come alone, but after a while his many children came with him, and they frequently brought fear into the hearts of our Lenapé people. Some would come from a cave under the falls know today as Niagara and others came from the mountains where they often made their homes.

At the sight of dark clouds and lightening, and at the sound of the thunder, being the roar of the wings of the Thunderers and the shaking of their rattles filled with bones, which shook the sky, our people became most fearful.

Nanapush finally saw that we, his grandchildren, were in distress and so he came to help us saying, "You have hurt and insulted your Grandfather Thunder through a lack of respect and thought for him. Grandfathers need to be remembered and honored too, for they also, like grandmothers, have shared in the gift of life and in helping their grandchildren into the future. So, when you first hear Grandfather Thunder in the spring, telling you that winter has ended and that life is again coming to the Earth, burn tobacco and greet your grandfather with prayers.

Whenever you hear his voice, do this and you will gain his protection and lightening will not strike you. Grandfather Thunder has charge of the rains that water the Earth and make your crops grow. With the proper respect, he will be thankful, bringing blessings to you, and protect you from the horned snakes and water monsters, and he will come to bring you warnings!"

From that time to this our Grandfather Thunder and our Lenapé people have always been close. We listened to our wise Grandfather Nanapush, and we have always shown respect to Old Thunder and love him dearly, and we always give thanks for his many gifts to all land and life upon Mother Earth.

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