March 4, 2016 6:00 am
Updated: March 4, 2016 9:15 pm

Trudeau honoured by Alberta’s Tsuut’ina First Nation, chiefs issue challenge

WATCH ABOVE: His celebrity-like status drew hundreds to this special ceremony for the Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau was invited by the Tsuut'ina Nation people to receive an honorary headdress..a symbolic gesture rarely granted.


CALGARY – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been honoured by a southern Alberta First Nation, but aboriginal leaders also challenged him to deliver on his promises to Indigenous People.

Trudeau, who has called an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde were honoured at an elaborate ceremony at the Tsuut’ina Nation. The prime minister was presented with a black cowboy hat, a fringed black jacket and an honorary headdress.

Watch below: Prime Minister Trudeau receives ceremonial headdress

During his speech, Trudeau warmly and graciously received the honour, calling it a distinct privilege. He said it was something he will wear and a title he will bear with the utmost respect and pride.

Tsuu T’ina Chief Roy Whitney told Trudeau that his election brings with it high expectations that the government will work with First Nations to overcome historical obstacles to recognition. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, outlined five promises the Liberals made during last fall’s election and told Trudeau he expects him to keep them.

Trudeau reiterated that he is committed to renewing a relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Metis.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived to a throng of media at Grey Eagle Hotel and Casino to meet dignitaries near Calgary, March 4, 2016.

Jill Croteau / Global News

The headdress, or war bonnet, that was presented to Trudeau symbolizes accomplishment, respect, bravery and peace building. Tsuut’ina chief and council spokesperson Kevin Littlelight said the bonnet is made of felt and golden eagle feathers—the “most sacred of all feathers to First Nations.” He said the beadwork is exclusive to the Tsuut’ina Nation, and the bonnet was made by elder and medicine man Bruce Starlight.

Watch below: Global’s Gord Gillies explains the symbolism behind the war bonnet

Littlelight said the headdress is traditionally given to someone who displays courage and bravery, but in recent times has also been bestowed to those who bring peace.

“It was an idea coming out to the Tsuut’ina Nation to bestow a feather hat on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he was a real leader in terms of taking a concern on aboriginal issues,” Littlelight said in an interview last week.

“To our surprise, the prime minister agreed…it’s an honour that works both ways. He’s coming here to accept, we’re honouring him, and for us—out of the 600 nations—to have this privilege is astronomical.”

Reporters were cautioned not to step on the red carpet that had been laid out prior to the prime minister appearing at the event.

WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau honoured by Tsuut’ina Nation in Alberta Friday

Prime Minister Trudeau and Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde enter in a ceremonial procession. Hundreds applaud loudly for the prime minister.

Jill Croteau / Global News

He was greeted by Tsuu T’ina Chief Roy Whitney, Bellegarde and First Nation elders before going into a private meeting.


The 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 Global’s Doug Vaessen and Jill Croteau

© 2016 The Canadian Press and Global News

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