After many years of waiting, The University of Winnipeg is now home to its very own Eagle Staff.
A sacred symbol that represents traditional Indigenous culture, an Eagle Staff is used at Indigenous ceremonies and celebratory functions. UWinnipeg’s Eagle Staff, received this past spring, was used for the very first time at the Indigenous Graduation Pow Wow in March.
“From this point forward, the UWinnipeg Eagle Staff will lead the way in UWinnipeg Indigenous celebrations and ceremonies,” said Tanis Kolisnyk, Aboriginal Student Services Centre (ASSC) Coordinator. “It’s a sacred item, a conduit of prayer to the Creator. It’s a powerful symbol of the Creator’s relationship with Indigenous people of this land, where we learn together, study, work, and are in community with each other.”
ASSC Elders-in-Residence consulted with Elder David Blacksmith regarding the details of the Eagle Staff. It’s made with Creator God’s gifts: tree, animal, and bird materials.
The Eagle Staff is unique to UWinnipeg with symbols chosen by Elders, Kolisnyk noted.
“In a brief synopsis of Elder David Blacksmith’s teachings of the UWinnipeg Eagle Staff, the wood represents the human body, the skirt the human mind, the eagle feathers represent the human spirit and soul, the dreamcatcher represents our dreams and connections to our ancestors, the buffalo hide reminds us of who fed us for generations, and the buffalo skull represents education and hope for tomorrow’s youth,” she said.
Because the Eagle Staff needs to be cared for with proper protocols in place, ASSC staff asked the Department of Facilities to build a case to provide a proper resting place.
Painter April Keenan and carpenter Brian Wait took on the project and created a one-of-a-kind storage unit.
On Tuesday, August 16, ASSC staff gifted star quilts to both Keenan and Wait.
“It’s moments like these that reinforce our collective efforts to partner together in our long-term commitments to Indigenous projects that impact our needs now, and for the future,” said Kolisnyk.