Kehewin Cree First Nations has presented the Bonnyville RCMP with a blessed eagle feather.
Yesterday, on July 15, a ceremony was held inside of a tee-pee with Cree elders and Sgt. Sarah Parke Detachment Commander from the Bonnyville RCMP in the Indigenous community.
“It’s one of the greatest protection you can get,” elder Harry Watchmaker said told Sgt. Parke during the presentation ceremony.
The eagle symbolizes respect, honor, humility, truth, love, strength, courage, and wisdom. Indigenous spirituality believes there’s a direct connection between the eagle and the creator.
The RCMP will use this eagle feather with Indigenous clients and can be held when swearing or affirming an oath or providing an affidavit, or statement.
Shannon Hambly-Watchmaker is the Kehewin Membership Manager and was present at Thursday’s ceremony.
“When a client is swearing or affirming with the eagle feather have them say the following, this eagle feather symbolizes our direct connection to the theater for my people, not only in the spirit of honor and the truth,” Hambly-Watchmaker told the RCMP during the presentation.
The red case in which the feather is held symbolizes protection and healing. The eagle feather case also includes a copy of the affirmation, Department of Natural Resources permit, and divisional policy.
Hambly-Watchmaker says the eagle feather will be maintained by the NCO and will be accessible by all employees,
“Using the eagle feather with a client under the influence of alcohol or drugs should be avoided,” Hambly-Watchmaker said. “But is allowed under extenuating circumstances.”
Hambly-Watchmaker told Sgt. Parke the eagle feather should be cleansed, blessed in a smudging ceremony by an elder if exposed to alcohol and illegal drugs, or otherwise just once a year by an elder.
Elder Harry Watchmaker sang a song and prayed during the ceremony that the creator will always protect Sgt. Parke in her line of duty. Watchmaker also gave Sgt. Parke a Cree name that translates in English to spirit woman.
“I really enjoy the fact that we’re finally able to do this,” Sgt. Parke said. “We’ve had this feather for probably a year and a half now and were just waiting to have the right time to be able to have it beaded from elders, and as well as this blessing. We’re very happy to finally be able to come out and have this ceremony.”
Sgt. Parke says RCMP Detachments across Alberta were given a sacred Eagle Feather for use within Indigenous communities.
“The Eagle symbolizes strength, courage and wisdom and Indigenous spirituality believes there is a direct connection between the Eagle and the Creator,” Sgt. Parke said. “As a result, the Eagle feather can now be held in lieu of a bible when swearing or affirming an oath or providing an affidavit or statement. We received our feather more than a year ago but have not been able to use it as we wanted to have it blessed in an official ceremony first. The pandemic has prevented such a ceremony until recently when we were fortunate enough to have the feather officially blessed by an Elder from Kehewin during Treaty Week. Another Kehewin community member beaded the feather. As the Detachment Commander in charge of Bonnyville Detachment it is my duty to keep the feather at the Detachment and protect it. It was a pleasure to take part in the official blessing ceremony and I was surprised and extremely honoured when the Elder gave me my own Cree name of Achak Iskuwew which translates to Spirit Woman.”