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Feathers, Stone Formations and Sash

Feathers, Stones and Sash

In 2005, the Government of Canada, together with Indigenous Spiritual Elders, Veterans and youth, participated in the Aboriginal Spiritual Journey to honour the more than 500 known Indigenous war dead and the thousands of First Nations people, Métis and Inuit who served in the First and Second World Wars. An important part of this journey was the Calling Home Ceremony which was meant to invite the spirits to return to their ancestral homelands where they will be greeted by relatives and friends and given a resting place.

An illustration representing each of the three main Indigenous groups (First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit) of Canada who took part in the Spiritual Journey was created for this special event. Below is an explanation of the symbols used in the illustration.

The First Nations symbol: The Eagle Feather

The Eagle is accorded the highest respect by all First Nations. The Eagle is considered the messenger of the Creator, therefore its feathers are held in high regard. Thus, the eagle feather is the link between the People and the Creator. Eagle feathers are gathered in ritual. No one has the right to take an eagle feather for her/himself, but they have to be awarded to the bearer.

The Inuit symbol: The Inuksuk

Inuksuit (plural of Inuksuk) are markers constructed by Inuit, whereby stones are placed on top of one another in particular formations. Traditionally these markers had many functions: one rock placed atop another formed a directional pointer, indicating the way home; vertical and horizontal stones were arranged to make a 'window' for sighting; some formations indicated good fishing places; others diverted caribou from their original path toward a place where they could be killed in the water; an Inuksuk might also mark a cache full of meat, or signify a place where one seeks help or favour, and where tokens of thanks were left.

The Métis symbol: The Métis Sash

Also called l’Assomption sash, (named after a town in Québec where it was produced), this colorful as well as distinguishable Métis apparel had many functional uses. Its fringed ends served as an emergency sewing kit when the Métis were out on a buffalo hunt. The sash also served as a key holder, first aid kit, washcloth, towel and as an emergency bridle and saddle blanket. In the West the name l'Assomption sash gave way to today's term the 'Métis sash'. It has been said that this likely occurred because many of the sash wearing voyageurs were of mixed-blood and the sash was most popular among the Métis of the Red River. Today the Métis sash continues to be an integral part of Métis cultural celebrations.

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