Olds College Hosts Eagle Feather and Sash Ceremony at Convocation
Indigenous convocates were invited to participate in an eagle feather and sash ceremony on the morning of convocation day. Elder Doreen Bergum and Elder John Sinclair were welcomed to oversee the ceremony and present the students with their eagle feathers and sashes
The morning began with one of the most intrinsic pieces of an indigenous ceremony, the smudge. Smudging honours the medicines that the First Peoples of North America have used for thousands of years. When the medicine is burned, the smoke travels to the Creator. When the Creator smells the burning sweetgrass, He knows that prayers are being offered. It serves as a conduit or connection to the Creator and centres the individual spiritually and cleanses any negative energy. Traditional ceremonies always have a smudge as a key part of the proceedings.
After prayer, and words from Olds College President Stuart Cullum and Keynote Speaker Dianna Frost, the presentation of the eagle feathers and sashes took place.
Indigenous teachings assert the idea that all of creation holds spirit, and that all living things offer spiritual teachings; every animal has a connection to the Creator. The eagle is the creature that soars the closest to the Creator. It has the eyes of the Creator, and a vantage point that enables it to observe everything. The significance of receiving an eagle feather is one of the most powerful honours that an indigenous person can receive. It is an indication or statement that says that there has been significant achievement. Having the eagle feather as a part of a convocation ceremony is a celebration of accomplishment. Prior to being gifted to a recipient, an eagle feather goes through an extensive process of being smudged and included in multiple ceremonies. The eagle feather is about accomplishment, honour and recognition, not unlike a Medal of Valour or similar recognition.
The sash holds a similar respect to Metis people as the eagle feather does to First Nations, in that it is gifted and is a sign of honour and recognition. The sash is part of the traditional apparel worn by the Metis people. This part of their apparel was not so much about fashion, but function, and a connection to their reality. The sash is one part of traditional Metis apparel that today occupies a significant place in honouring the culture and its traditions. It was used by women in a variety of ways, to carry children, help carry loads, and numerous other functions in day to day life, and was an aid to survival in harsh living environments. Today it is recognized among Metis Nations as a symbol of honour, accomplishment and achievement. There is a great deal of pride and positive energy that comes with being presented with a sash.
The sash and eagle feather presentations are consistent with a good starting point for the reconciliation of Indigenous ways into post secondary education; these presentations honour the recipient in ways which in turn honour the culture and tradition of their ancestors.