Wetaskiwin courthouse to allow people to swear oath on eagle feather

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WATCH ABOVE: A ceremony was held at the Wetaskiwin courthouse to mark a new way for people to swear their oath. Sarah Komadina explains. – Oct 21, 2019

Indigenous people are now able to swear their oath on an eagle feather at the courthouse in Wetaskiwin.

A bestowment ceremony was held at the courthouse Monday, and saw eagle feathers formally presented to the court, after a pipe and smudge ceremony was held outside to bless the feathers.

Elders and Chiefs from Ermineskin Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation will be attendance, along with provincial court Chief Judge Terrance Matchett, provincial court Associate Chief Judge Jim Hunter and Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Marilyn Slawinsky.

“The eagle feather is kind of like the bible for us,” Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Craig Makinaw said.

“The eagle is very important in our culture, in ceremony. It’s significant that it’s being recognized by the judges here.”

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Chief Judge Terrance Matchett said in his opening remarks, “My term as chief judge will soon expire, but this day will be a highlight of my career.”

“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on all of us to take action, including all justice system participants, the provincial court of Alberta has heard that call and is responding to it.”

This is not the first of its kind in Alberta. The courthouse in Lethbridge started to provide eagle feathers last year, and it became an option in Athabasca this past summer.

READ MORE: Eagle feather now an option at Lethbridge Courthouse when taking oath or affirmation

Provinces like Nova Scotia and Manitoba have eagle feathers at all of their courthouses.

“It means lots, because it’s a step forward for our people,” Makinaw said.

“This will be our first step of many in addressing a lot of our issues that we have in the judicial system.”

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