Justin Trudeau honoured by Tsuut'ina First Nation as 'the one that keeps trying'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received thanks for his commitment to indigenous issues during an elaborate ceremony on the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary, where he was bestowed with a traditional headdress and an aboriginal name that translates to “the one that keeps trying.”

Prime minister granted honorary headdress and aboriginal name on First Nation just southwest of Calgary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses after receiving a ceremonial headdress while visiting the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received thanks for his commitment to indigenous issues during an elaborate ceremony on the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary Friday, where he was bestowed with a traditional headdress and an aboriginal name, Gumistiyi, which translates to "the one that keeps trying."

Trudeau received the red carpet treatment as he arrived at Tsuut'ina for private meetings with First Nations leaders before he and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde were presented with the honorary headdresses.

Once the public ceremony began, Trudeau received applause and shouts of approval as he spoke of how important it is, in his view, to renew Canada's "nation-to-nation relationship" with its indigenous people.

"I commit to you that the Government of Canada will walk with you on a path of true reconciliation, in partnership and in friendship. I will not lose sight of that goal," Trudeau told the gathered crowd.

"I will remember the responsibility of the great honour you bestow on me today."

In his opening remarks, Tsuut'ina Chief Roy Whitney-Onespot thanked Trudeau and his government for committing to a national inquiry on missing and murdered indigenous women.

"Our women are central in our community and give you thanks for recognizing the importance of justice for our women," Whitney-Onespot said.

Trudeau had accepted an invitation from Tsuut'ina to formally meet with band leaders and be briefed on First Nations issues including missing and murdered women, adequate water, social programming and economic development.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, is greeted by Tsuut'ina Chief Roy Whitney, centre, and AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde as he arrives on the Tsuut'ina First Nation near Calgary on Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Bellegarde told the crowd he welcomed Trudeau's decision to lift the previous two-per-cent cap on federal funding increases to First Nations, and said he looked forward to greater investment in education for aboriginals.

"That cap was a cap on growth, a cap on potential," the national chief said. "You have to start investing in the fastest growing segment of Canada's population, which is our young men and women."

Following the remarks from Trudeau and Bellegarde, both were presented with a variety of gifts before the official headdress transfer took place.

The honorees then joined Tsuut'ina leaders in a celebratory dance.

The headdress, or war bonnet, symbolizes accomplishment, respect, bravery and peace building.

Tsuut'ina member Hal Eagletail, who acted as the master of ceremony, said the headdresses are only bestowed upon recipients the band believes will be warriors for them.

"We have the right to give this headdress to who we feel is worthy," Eagletail said. "In our Tsuut'ina culture, when you're elected a leader, you've earned that right to receive the headdress, because you need to go do battle for us." 

Among those in attendance at the ceremony was Isaac Crane, 18, who was pleased to see Trudeau visit the First Nation to speak with aboriginal leaders.

"It's better than the previous prime minister," he said.

Isaac Crane, 18, said he didn't vote for Justin Trudeau's Liberals in the past federal election but he hopes the prime minister will bring positive change on environmental issues and the relationship between First Nations and the federal government. (Kate Adach/CBC)

While Crane said he cast a ballot for the NDP when he voted for the first time in a federal election last October, he was impressed by what Trudeau had to say about First Nations issues.

"He's straight, direct, about his goals," Crane said.

"I do hope he changes a lot of things."

The Tsuut'ina First Nation rarely bestows ceremonial headdresses upon sitting prime ministers, though other Canadian leaders have received similar honours from other bands.

In 2011, the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta named then-prime minister Stephen Harper the band's honorary chief and gave him a headdress of eagle feathers.

With files from CBC's Kate Adach and The Canadian Press