With nothing more than a phone call, the use of a traditional eagle feather for oaths within the Drumheller RCMP is now available.
At the beginning of 2021, Cpl. Colleen Skyrpan with the Indigenous Policing Unit out of ‘K’ Division Headquarters described the new addition and how it would create inclusivity within the detachment area.
The idea was originally spurred in Nova Scotia in October 2017 but over time, this protocol has reached westward to Alberta.
In First Nations culture, the eagle is considered sacred because it flies the highest and closest to the Creator.
The eagle feather is a symbol of spirituality and is used in many Indigenous traditions throughout North America.
The eagle feather can be used in a number of ways in regards to the judicial system.
When a client enters a detachment to provide a statement, they will now be given three options: to swear on a Bible, affirm or affirm with an eagle feather.
The eagle feather may also be offered as a comforting item for a client when interacting with employees at the detachment as well as by all citizens.
Should the client wish to use the eagle feather, it would be held by the client while providing their evidence or statement.
To date, several detachments have already received an eagle feather.
The feather will be maintained by the Detachment Commander in its protective case and will be accessible to all employees.
The district office and the majority of detachments (smaller detachments with little to no Indigenous populations will be able to use a District of neighboring detachment feather if required) will all receive feathers in the near future.
As the eagle feather holds significance and is delicate in nature, it was transported personally by Cpl. Skyrpan who delivered it safely to Drumheller.
On arrival, she suggested to Drumheller Staff Sgt. Ed Bourque to connect with Drumheller’s local Indigenous community to have the stem beaded which would in turn also help the detachment connect with local community members and encourage their support of this program.
It was later suggested that the SSgt. touch base with the Drumheller Institution via their Indigenous Interventions Center (IIC).
Carol Gogol, the Coordinator of the IIC made arrangements to have the eagle feather beaded by one of the attendees of the IIC, and then blessed by her teammate Elder Ken Cardinal.
“When we received the completed eagle feather, our team was delighted with the beading work which has ‘RCMP’ wrapped around the stem in mountie colours, and Elder Ken Cardinal also provided us with some sage and a seashell,” explained SSgt. Bourque.
“He asked that when someone incorporates the eagle feather at the detachment in any of the circumstances, we encourage them to burn a small amount of Sage and Smudge, first to honour the sacredness of the blessing and the Creator.”
The detachment was appreciative of Gogol and Elder Cardinal’s efforts as well as the IIC team, who were presented with a pouch of tobacco, as well as a monetary award, as is common practice with such initiatives.
However, the staff were unable to accept the monetary donation due to existing protocols so Gogol and her team suggested that in lieu of a donation to the IIC, the detachment would consider a donation to a charity of their choice.
“After some discussion with my detachment team, we chose the Salvation Army,” said Bourque.