Introduction of sacred eagle feathers into Manitoba courts called a historic moment

Indigenous people can soon give their testimony in Manitoba courts after swearing their oath on an eagle feather. 

An official ceremony to mark the introduction of sacred eagle feathers into every provincial courtroom was held Thursday morning at the Oodena Circle at The Forks.

The feathers were blessed at a sunrise ceremony, featuring smudging and a prayer. 

“This is a historical moment for us, to see our way of life being accepted into the courts like this,” said Michael Pierre, who works with the Indigenous spiritual caregivers at Manitoba Justice.

‘It fills my heart with joy’

The eagle reminds Indigenous people to have love for all creation, and the feather shows the path they should walk, he said.

“The work that we do in the correctional centres, we know the value and the hard work that comes from bringing these feathers, and to see that into the court system, it fills my heart with joy,” Pierre said.

People can swear or affirm affidavits using an eagle feather — rather than swearing on the Bible — or they can hold one while giving testimony.  

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal said the provincial court system is accepting the 40 feathers with humility.

“It’s important, ladies and gentlemen, to the work of the courts that all Manitobans have confidence in the justice system,” he said. 

Justice Lore Mirwaldt, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas and Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal gather after a sunrise ceremony to bless the eagle feathers soon to be used in Manitoba’s courts. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

“The presence of the eagle feather in the courtroom, and at the court counter, will provide Indigenous and Aboriginal Manitobans with confidence that they will be heard and that they deserve to have their culture and beliefs recognized, respected and accepted with renewal.”

The ceremony was witnessed by Indigenous elders, pipe carriers and warriors, as well as provincial justices.

A formal presentation of the eagle feathers to the courts will be held at the Law Courts building in downtown Winnipeg at 1 p.m.

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