Traditional eagle feather, sacred pipe gifts fire up tribal emotions

Katrice Perkins/Daily Mining Gazette Rodney Loonsfoot presents an eagle feather to Randy Haataja as a gift for re-election to the KBIC Tribal Council.

Re-elected members of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Council were presented special gifts Saturday by fellow member and veterans service officer Rodney Loonsfoot and council member Fred Dakota.

The gifts included an eagle feather and a sacred pipe of the tribe, wrapped up in a yellow sack.

Dakota asked Loonsfoot to pass on eagle feathers to the council members.

“When he asked me that I almost broke down and cried,” Loonsfoot said.

The gifts were a way to get the tribe back to their cultural roots, he said.

“As elders on the Tribal Council, we have a responsibility to culturally look out for what’s best for our people. It’s (the gift) a step toward getting back to those tools that we were given by the creator, so they can learn about them and teach their families,” said Loonsfoot.

He went on to talk about how councils of the past used sacred bundles and items, and the gift was a way to bring that back.

The sentiments behind the gifts filled the meeting room with emotion, resulting in hugs all around at the council members’ table.

“I am truly blessed that we’re committed again to make more of an effort to bring traditions back,” Council President Chris Swartz said.

Re-elected council members Doreen Blaker and Randy Haataja expressed their gratitude and respect for the gifts.

“I was moved by the gift,” Haataja said. “It was unexpected, and it’s hard to explain.”

Blaker expressed her gratitude for Dakota, saying: “Fred has been on the council forever. How do you follow his steps? He taught us a lot. … It’s an honor to get an eagle feather. You use them to pray. You use them to speak the truth.”

Each bundle is meant to mean something different, depending on each person’s purpose.

“They’re meant to be used quietly and humbly,” said Blaker.

Blaker said the gifts are a step in bringing back more of their traditions like smudging, which is a cleansing act, and teaching people lessons on their language.

“It took them decades to beat our culture and language out of us, so we have to realize it’ll take us years to bring back,” Blaker said