Edmonton

Eagle feathers available for swearing oaths at Wetaskiwin courthouse

People testifying at the Wetaskiwin courthouse will now have the option of swearing an oath on an eagle feather.

Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana First Nation participated in ceremony

Representatives from Samson Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Ermineskin Cree Nation participated in the event, along with judges from Alberta Provincial Court and Court of Queen's Bench.

People testifying at the Wetaskiwin courthouse will now have the option of swearing an oath on an eagle feather. 

The eagle feathers were officially introduced at a ceremony on Monday afternoon.  

"The significance of holding the eagle feather is an individual's commitment to act and speak with honour, trust and respect at all times," said Herb Dion, an elder from Samson Cree Nation.

Representatives from the four Cree Nations of Maskwacis — Samson Cree Nation, Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Montana First Nation — all participated in the ceremony. 

The four feathers were blessed and presented to Chief Judge Terrence Matchett from the Provincial Court of Alberta and Justice Marilyn Slawinsky from the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

"Our hope is that the presence of the eagle feather in our courtrooms will help to ensure a more inclusive and relevant legal system for Indigenous peoples," Slawinsky said.

Eagles feathers will now be available to people swearing an oath at the Wetaskiwin courthouse. The four feathers were presented at a ceremony Monday by elders from the four Cree Nations of Maskwacis. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Representatives from the Wetaskiwin and Maskwacis RCMP detachments also attended the ceremony. 

The Wetaskiwin courthouse is the first in central Alberta to offer the eagle feather for oaths, though the practice is becoming more common across Canada.

Lethbridge courthouse introduced the eagle feather last November.

Chief Craig Makinaw from Ermineskin Cree Nation said having the eagle feather represented "a step forward" for Indigenous people.

"The eagle is very important in culture and ceremony, so it's significant that's being done and recognized by our judges here and across the province," he said Monday after the ceremony.

Makinaw said he'd like to see the practice adopted across the province as a small step toward reconciliation. 

"The work we're doing now, it's probably going to benefit seven generations down the road," he said. "That's what I'm hoping will happen. When those youth are adults, and other leaders that come in later, they will be the ones that benefit from this."