Eagle feathers and in-coming messages
This is a account after I put aside my aversion to noisy crowds and intense solar powers yesterday.
I attended the Free the Falls walk in our nation’s capital. It was to satisfy a personal quest to learn from the Indigenous People and share a passionate plea to save sacred islands from commercial development.
Soon after I arrived at Victoria Island by taxi and joined the mingling crowd in the morning shade, one of the organizing volunteers delegated me to help hand out ribbons, strips of colourful cloth for later tying on to Chaudière bridge. I found it a good exercise for me and other delegates to mingle, connect with people and pass on the message.
Eventually we heard the sound of Native men sharing one drum and singing. I felt the vibrations in my heart. It was powerful like thunder.
Then the women, the Grandmothers formed a circle nearby to sing and dance. I found it uplifting and lively like sunshine and rain.
Next, we gathered around the men’s circle to listen to speeches and prayers.
Most of us were respectful of this ceremony, straining to hear the various speakers. Others could be excused for their poor manners due to the lack of a sound system or raised stage. I can understand that it was likely preferred to not be seen as a spectacle.
One moment of sweet irony was as the Native men and women held their eagle feathers up during a prayer, the sound of a cell phone in the pouch of a Native man beside me blared out something like “Zrr-wooosh! In-coming message. The database has been successfully updated.”
I like to think of it as a crossing between the ancient and the modern, that there is still a quest to connect the sacred and the mysterious in our intrusive technological age.
After much more waiting, standing and listening for directions, we soon formed a marching throng and proceeded to Parliament Hill.
Of all the photographs I took during the day, I connected with one that demonstrates the spirit of friendship and sharing. One of the Natives carried a large basket around to the patient participants, offering strawberries. To see that photograph and many others taken during the day, visit the It is Sacred Facebook group.
After more waiting, connecting and standing in a large circle on the hill, we were summoned to gather around a hard-to-see group of Elders and organizers. Again, a platform could have been used… Most of us listened intently to speeches and requests for a symbolic gesture of reconciliation. This time they had a sound system that helped broadcast the messages.
I was disappointed by ignorance and disrespect from others on the hill, promoting their own agendas to willing listeners off to the side during the speeches, and the vocal dissent of one young Native woman commenting contrary to the shared mission.
It was apparent to me that there was still a need for dialogue and agreement within the Indigenous people themselves.
The conclusion of the gathering was loosely communicated yet some of us followed the pipe and flag carriers under the scorching sun, past the starting location and a little farther to the bridge. We were committed to tie those ribbons!
On that hot journey back, I walked and talked with another non-Native woman. She had traveled by bus with a church group from her city. She wanted to ask permission to sprinkle some of her late son’s ashes into the nearby water, knowing that it would run to the Ottawa River.
I observed quietly as she spoke a brief prayer and sprinkled the ashes from a small tin. Together we tied our ribbons to the bridge then hugged. I wished her a safe journey back home as we parted and I headed off in the heat to find a local bus.
To me, this was a day to gather and march as a collective conscience, to offer prayers for a shared vision. It was also an opportunity for individuals with private reasons to visit this area.
Although I took adequate precautions, my face was sufficiently kissed by the sun. I like to think that I “earned the burn”.
Thanks for dropping by. Meegwetch.
I have written this as pen name Florence T Lyon. I invite you to read more about my chosen name and the bittersweet novel I published in 2011. It contains reference to Native culture in the Georgian Bay area, and the comforting love of Grandmothers.