Eagle Feather

I Want An Eagle Feather

I have always wanted an eagle feather, but in aboriginal spirituality, you can’t just go and find one. You have to have it given to you, preferably by an aboriginal elder.

When I was editor of the Rupert’s Land News, published by the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, the Anglican Bishop, my boss, occasionally asked me to host visitors from far away because I was single and had a nice big apartment with a guest room.

One winter, a young priest-in-training from East London in England, came to Manitoba as the bishop’s guest. They had met while studying in a seminary in northern England.

Yes, I said to the bishop, I’ll put him up for the time he’s in Winnipeg. His name was Pete Hillman.

During his visit we talked a lot and I discovered he, too, wanted an eagle feather.

He stayed at my place for a week, and then went to the Peguis First Nations reserve at the invitation of Chief Barry Beare. While there, the chief arranged for Pete to be taken to a northern island in search of eagles. Part of the journey would be by canoe from the mainland to the island, on which no one lived. I enquired of Pete if I could come along. Sure enough, the chief said yes.

Pete came back to my place excited about the possibility of going to a remote place in northern Manitoba. During this time of waiting we went to several trading stores where Pete bought the makings of a pipe he would use to hang eagle feathers.

It seemed a long time from mid-November to the time of the trip, and the weather was balmy until suddenly the weekend before departure, the temperature dropped and freezeup came early.

What a disappointment for both of us. There would be no canoe travel to the island because winter ice had begun forming and the lake was closing.

Pete stayed another month until shortly before Christmas, going back and forth for visits to Peguis.

We went to a few more stores for the parts he needed for his pipe, but he took it with him to England without feathers, vowing to come back for that canoe trip.

That was 10 years ago, and so far, Pete has not come back. I follow his activities on Facebook and congratulated him when he was finally ordained. His parish in East London is made up of mostly young roller bladers. His church is a roller rink where loud worship music is played and the congregation guys skate up and down in time to the music.

Until he comes again, he and I will both have to content ourselves with life without an eagle feather.

Irvin James Kroeker

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