The Blood Tribe in southern Alberta has honoured the success of one of its members, Eugene Brave Rock.
A ceremony held at the Tatsikiisaapo'p Middle School on Thursday saw the 39-year-old actor bestowed with a headdress — the highest honour given in First Nations culture.
"Not just anybody can get a headdress," said his aunt, Ramona Bighead, who attended the ceremony.
"Only the most notable people get one. We felt that Eugene deserved that honour."
Brave Rock is making waves in entertainment circles for his recent role as "Chief" in Wonder Woman, the DC Comics superhero film distributed by Warner Bros.
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Born and raised on the Blood reserve, Brave Rock was highly influenced by his Blackfoot culture.
Bighead believes her nephew has displayed leadership to the community while earning the headdress honour.
"For him being an actor, in my opinion, he's probably going to portray an Indigenous person on screen again," she said.
"Now he has the full right to wear a headdress. No one can ever say, 'Hey, you have no right to wear this.'"
'Gene wasn't expecting the headdress'
Brave Rock's uncle and Blood council member, Marcel Weasel Head, said his nephew was stunned by the gesture.
"It was a really special ceremony. Gene wasn't expecting the headdress; he didn't know," said Weasel Head.
"The mere fact that he's a Blood Tribe member and has done very well for himself, and he's a role model for our children — it was just time that he came home and he was recognized by his own people."
It was emotional for family members and friends who came to support Brave Rock, said Weasel Head, who added that he held back tears as he embraced his nephew.
It had been a few years since Brave Rock returned home, but he's always stayed grounded to his roots, said Weasel Head.
"I can remember when he was a kid that he was always pleasant and always there to greet you. He had a big smile — very down-to-earth, humble kid. He was friends with everyone and didn't get into any trouble," he said.
Kids were 'star-struck'
Weasel Head went on to share that one day, Brave Rock left the reserve to work in the big city in construction, and he caught the itch to get into acting after doing a couple of auditions for fun.
"Then he said, 'I'm going…. I'm going to Paris and going to explore what's out there,'" said Weasel Head.
He said Brave Rock encouraged children and youth at Thursday's gathering to get out and reach their goals, but also to keep their culture close to heart.
"The kids are star-struck," said Bighead.
"One mother was so thankful. Her little boy was talking to his mother about wanting to cut his braids. But after listening to Eugene tell them not to cut their hair, he told his mother he never, ever wants to cut his braids."
Brave Rock travelled to his home in the United States on Friday but plans to come back home soon to visit and share his story.