Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Eagle Feather

My father believed in the teachings pow-wow traditions. I remember as we readied ourselves for dancing, he would tell us; ‘take care of your Eagle Feathers because they took care of you.’ Being a young child I found it difficult to comprehend the full weight of his words. As we pulled into the pow wow grounds, I immediately noticed my friend, but I knew I had to put my regalia on; before I could run out to meet her. My father repeated his usual warning as I impatiently braided my hair. The drums began to beat and an intertribal was called. Soon I joined my friend as we danced in a huge circle comprised of what seemed like hundreds of dancers. Very soon after I began dancing I could see my feather drift in the air; I reached out to grab it, but it was too late, it floated to the ground. The energy around me felt heightened as the drums roared into silence. Every dancer quietly left the circle, and as I walked towards my father I could see his solemn expression as he looked at my fallen feather. I watched 4 Elders came forward with their Eagle Fans in their hands. It was only then that big drums began to beat once again. Every men in they audience removed their hats and stood in complete silence alongside women and children. The Elders began to dance, pray and lay tobacco on the ground. The sound of Eagle Whistles pierced the air to mark each of the rounds. On the fourth round they began a long and careful process of gently lifting the feather onto their Eagle Fans and then they carefully transported it to my father. They stood with my father and prayed. My father in his turn honored the Elders and drum group with gratitude. Although we were poor, I heard him apologize to each of them for having only simple money to show his respect. Next, I heard the announcer share a teaching of how the Elders (veterans themselves) provided great honor for the fallen feather because it represented a fallen soldier. Since then I have witnessed this ceremony numerous times and although the ceremony varies; the respect of the ‘fallen solider’ is always the same. I remember my father’s funeral and the profound sadness I felt to hear the veteran’s bugling ‘taps’ as his casket was lowered into the ground and I think of how it must of felt for him to hear the same melancholy tune as his father’s funeral. I think back to his words of long ago, ‘take care of your feathers because they took care of you’ and now fully comprehend the weight of his words; we must take care of them, because they represent the soldiers that took care of us.

All my Relations,
Emily, (ejh)
Kihci Têpakohp Iskotêw Iskwêw

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