Islanders can now swear oaths with an eagle feather.
It’s part of a collaboration between the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.’s Indigenous Justice Initiative and the RCMP on P.E.I.
The eagle feather initiative provides an opportunity for the feather to be used in the same way as a Bible or affirmation
Every RCMP detachment on P.E.I. now has an eagle feather that can be used in swearing an oath.
“In our culture the eagle is considered to be the messenger to the creator,” said Darlene Bernard, chief of the Lennox Island First Nation.
“To be given an eagle feather is a huge honour in our culture.”
“Before the feathers were handed over to Island RCMP detachments they went through a smudging ceremony,” Bernard said.
“Which is our cleansing ceremony,” she said, adding it was done at Government House with RCMP members in attendance.
“We all spoke and talked about how important this event was in moving forward with reconciliation.”
Enhancing relationships with Indigenous communities is a priority for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said P.E.I.’s RCMP Commanding Officer Chief Superintendent Jennifer Ebert.
“It’s our hope that the ability to provide this option of an eagle feather during all interactions at our detachments provide comfort, and strength and guidance to all Indigenous persons,” she said.
The feather may also be offered as a comfort for a client when interacting with employees at a detachment, Ebert said.
“Sworn statements that we would normally within practice use a Bible or an affirmation to swear that legal oath, and now with the eagle feather being introduced, it brings in Indigenous practices in the same way.”
Ebert said it was “pretty powerful” to hold one of the feathers.
We need to have the RCMP standing at our side not in front of us.— Darlene Bernard, chief of the Lennox Island First Nation.
The RCMP and Indigenous community relationships are not all “sunshine and roses,” Bernard said.
“Now with social media, people see what’s going on in other places. When there is a disruption in another Mi’kmaq community and the police are brought in and something happens,” she said. “People see that and that kind of reverberates throughout the whole of Mi’kma’ki.”
Bernard said the RCMP and Indigenous people need to come together to solve issues between the two communities.
“To make sure that the RCMP and all police who interact with us have a greater understanding of the cultural awareness and sensitivity to our people,” she said.
“We need to have the RCMP standing at our side not in front of us. We need them at our side.”