LETHBRIDGE – It’s another step in the right direction for truth and reconciliation in Southern Alberta.
That’s what organizers are saying following an Eagle Feather Bestowment ceremony that took place at the Lethbridge Courthouse on Friday, Nov. 16.
A smudge was performed as part of the ceremony, and an eagle feather gifted by Travis Plaited Hair was blessed to both the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Provincial Court of Alberta in Lethbridge.
Kainai Peace Making Program Coordinator Tony Delaney says the relationship between members of the First Nations community and people associated with the courts didn’t just happen overnight.
“Our program is a restorative justice program, and we have peacemakers that work with our program. All of them former educators, as well as a member of our team that was a former member of the National Parole Board. All traditionalists, individuals that can perform ceremonies.”
Delaney says that’s really the success behind it, the peacemakers they have and their staff as well as clients following through.
“We started in 2010 receiving referrals from the courts. At the time it was just out of Cardston court, and since then it has moved on to Fort Macleod, Pincher Creek and here in Lethbridge. Having support from the judges, crown prosecutors and lawyers around Southern Alberta is a big part of our success,” Delaney said.
While there are other areas in Canada with an eagle feather in their courthouses, this is a first for this area.
“Some people may see it as something small, but it’s actually a big thing,” Delaney continued. “To be able to smudge here in the courthouse, it’s never happened and for people to witness that and participate in that as well.”
In 2018, and with truth and reconciliation in the front of people’s minds, Delaney says it’s important that this is happening in Lethbridge.
“My example is, Indian people, speak the same language as Indian people. Non-Indigenous people speak the same language as non-Indigenous people. So, we need to educate as many non-Indigenous people about who we are, and to eliminate a lot of the stereotypes that are directed towards our people. To show that we are contributing members of society, and there are people doing good stuff and good work.”
The smudging won’t be a one-time thing for the ceremony either, as Delaney explained they’ll smudge whenever it’s requested.
“In Cardston, we are going to smudging every Monday at 9:30 a.m. before court,” he continued. “So, anyone that is there or is driving by can join us. We started that on November 5th, it’s something to make available for people that want to do it.”
The feather will replace a bible, a Koran, the old testament, whatever someone may use as an instrument to bind their testimony, to tell the truth.
With seven courthouses in the south region, Provincial Court judge Derek Redman hopes the feather in Lethbridge is the first of many in the area.
“My dream would be to have a feather like that in every courthouse. This one, we may have to move around but this ceremony was a ceremony to introduce the eagle feather into the southern region, and so once we have acquired enough blessed feathers,” Redman said, adding he hopes that they eventually have it in every courthouse.
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