“The thunderbird is a mythical aboriginal spirit, probably derived from the eagle, whose name signifies the voice of thunder. It is one of the most common emblems of the Northwest Coast aboriginal tribes and is often the crowning figure on carved totem poles before the chief’s house. It is believed to be a symbol of supremacy and power in the life of the tribe. The mystique surrounding this emblem varies according to the legends of the tribe concerned. The common features of its attributes, however, concern its role as a protecting spirit, one who gives wise counsel and guards the tribe from evil and misfortune. The face on the breast symbolized dual transformation. These attributes make it an appropriate symbol for the Security Branch of the Canadian Forces. It is a bold and striking emblem, distinctive in appearance and identifiably Canadian”.
According to one of the members of the ISG, the idea for the Thunderbird as an appropriate symbol was originated by Captain Alexander Kinnear, a past president of the Canadian Military Intelligence Association (CMIA). Captain Kinnear donated to the CMIA an original wood carving of a First Nations totem pole in the form of a Thunderbird that had been created by noted Canadian aboriginal artist Henry Hunt.
After researching the traditions and artwork of the First Nations, the members of the ISG chose the Thunderbird as the symbol for the newly formed Canadian Forces Security Branch for the following reasons:
1. It was a symbol that was uniquely Canadian in nature;
2. It did not perpetuate any past symbolism to connect it with the Canadian Provost Corps, the RCAF Police, or the Canadian Intelligence Corps; and
3. In First Nations lore, the Thunderbird had attributes which could be related to the role of all elements of the Security Branch, such as giving wise counsel to the chief (intelligence) and protecting the tribe (security and police services).
Three predominant works by well-known Canadian artists were considered for the inspiration of the newly formed Security Branch badge: Thunderbird – a design by Henry Hunt, Thunderbird – a painting by Chief Mungo Martin, and “Hoho” Thunderbird – a painting by C.B. Greul.
As we count down the next nine months to the official 75th anniversary of the Military Police in Canada, we will be publishing a series of nine “Legends of the Thunderbird”, which were first recorded by German anthropologist Dr. Franz Boas (1858-1942), who spent four years living with aboriginal Canadians of Canada’s pacific northwest and collecting their legends and folklore. These legends were originally published in The Thunderbird Journal, which was the official Security Branch magazine from 1982 until 1998.
We hope you enjoy reading these unique legends, and draw the same parallels between the legends of the Thunderbird and the role of the military police in Canada that ISG did in 1967.