Saturday, July 4, 2015

Time To Stop With Eagle Feathers

I know this is not popular for many of us Neechies to hear, but Man its time to stop using Eagle Feathers at Powwows.  This topic will never be raised by any Indigenous Leader anywhere.

Yeah, I know! Who the heck do I think I am and what business is it of mine? Since I am one of those people that have took part in and still will purchase the Feather or even a Bustle.  I mean the Feather is beautiful and the Bustles that people make are just works of art.  I wrote a piece called "Too Many Eagle Feathers Floating Around" sometime ago. I think it about it some and really think we should start to conduct ourselves with some restraint when it comes to handling the Sacred.
I mean really? We surely don't want the outside world (again) pointing at us (like they have stopped) and saying "Uurrgh, those Redskins are killing all the Wildlife".  It is the similar chant when we go Moose hunting, fishing, and other Indians type stuff. We are accused of being wasteful, over killing selfish hunters, fishers, and gatherers.  Oh yeah, a new one, we are also hoarders (we used to be Indian Givers) because we don't want to share the Water with Big Greedy Corporations. You know like Alberta Tars Sands, Nestle Water plants and other water destroying engines. I hope that people catch on to what the Natives have been Teaching: Water is Life.

Oh yeah, before I got all David Suzuki environmental on you, I wanted to discuss (or at least put in my opinion) the Eagle Feather thing. No doubt that having an Eagle Feather is a big deal. A huge deal, a mega deal in fact.  It is like getting the Order of Canada (like the medal Conrad Black got and I think Allan Eagleson got one as well) or some other big award that someone or some big wig might bestow onto you. I do think with the Eagle Feather and how it is now relatively easy to get and it might be less of a super mega deal these days. Not saying it is not Sacred anymore. But take a look at what happened to Tobacco. Its the context thing that I have used in the past. The historical significance of access to Eagle Feathers has somehow become distorted. I remember when the whole DDT thing made the Eagle a dead bird. Remember that?  Eagles where in short supply. I wonder did the Native folk also do their best to save the Eagle during that time?  Anyway, the Eagle has made a recovery but still is in need of protection. Today the harvesting of an Eagle is unknown to me as to how one gets the privilege? But that's for Traditional people to know and for Teachers to know.

The point I am making is this, we need to stop using Feathers in the way we are currently using them. I mean not the way they are used Healing but how they are used for competitions and as commodities, purchasing power. I know I don't have the right to say that. But I am. I think that some of the Elders Teachers and Traditional leaders should say "Hey Neechies, maybe we should slow down on those two and three layered bustels, what you think?"  Or maybe even say something like this "Hey! Those Eagles are our brothers, they take the messages of our prayers to the Creator, so why the heck are we killing so many of them?".  Or maybe they could say something like this, "Hey Endenawaamaganuk (relatives), what you say we start using imitation feathers in some of our dance bustels?"  "It won't diminish your talent or how cool you look, some of those pretend Eagle Feathers look pretty damn good".
Pretend Eagle Feather Looks Pretty Good.
I think if we really know that everything is Alive and everything is Sacred that we would start to consider this holding off on everything Eagle Feather thing. Kids, I mean our kids are great, wonderful, precious and our gift, but come on, having them wear full Eagle Feather Bustles and carrying Eagle wing fans?  Its beautiful and that is great. Let's think about where that Bird came from and how did it get there? What was earned, learned about the Ceremony behind harvesting that Eagle?  If we look at the Feathers we have do we know the story of where they came from?

I don't think this topic will go anywhere. It may get some Traditional folk angry at me, I can understand that for sure. The Traditions of our people are vital to our existence. I know that. At the same time we have to look at everything with the Spirit and Intent of the Teaching.  No saying get rid of the Feathers floating around out there, but consider for the new era of Feather use.  

If all of the Creators beings are Sacred why not use goose feathers, turkey feathers for bustles?  

Listen my friends, it is an idea. Only you have choice. 

Ask these questions: How did that Eagle Feather come into your possession? Do you know how where it was harvested? 


  1. I keep it simple. One miigwan (eagle feather) on my regalia and in my hair piece. That is it. I am put off by the EGO in powwows. I only go to traditional powwows. We need to remember EGO IS NOT A CLAN.

    I was a a powwow where jingle dress dancers were being called up to dance in the exhibition. The man said, "eagle feathers up front." I was really put off by this. Do we have a hierarchy in how we line up dancers? This is a powwow I will never return too.

    I also dance with a sweetgrass circle and not a fan. Dancing with a fan in jingle is even more so not traditional. The appropriation of the jingle dress by other tribes is also troubling to me. Being that I am Ojibway when I see a Lakota dancing jingle I am like, "my oh my." Our people don't even really get along. Requirements to be a jingle dress dancer should be years of sobriety and walking the red road. Something to not pick up because you think you are a healer. Not everyone is a healer or has worked on their healing. Maybe dancing will help the individual heal? It is a huge responsibility to dance jingle, it is not a joke.

    The true meaning/feeling of a miigwan is more than show. Now status symbols. Once revered in a quiet and non-egotistical way. We sure have a long way to go to decolonize.