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The symbolic meaning of the feather


03 / 1993

At the Conference "Living with the Earth" organized by the Intercultural Institute of Montreal in Canada, an Indian Canadian, Al Hunter, spoke about the symbolic meaning of the feather : "When I speak in my language, I’ve been taught to introduce myself by telling you my name. In English, the closest translation would be "whirlwind". My totem, my clan, is the caribou. The name of the land where I come from speaks of the river. These feathers that I carry were given to me about ten years ago when I started on a journey to reclaim who I am. These feathers are very sacred because they come from the bird that flies highest in the sky and that is very important to us - the eagle. I take them with me wherever I go. And I hold them whenever I speak, because they give me strength. They give me the ability to speak from my heart, to speak honestly, and to speak without anger, so as not to hurt anyone. I can tell you a story from these feathers. These are not just feathers. The middle bone is the path that we walk. It could be a path; it could be a river. You can call it whatever you want. All these off-to-the-sides are the choices that we have, but there is always this bone to which they are attached. For us, it is called "the red road", the road our fathers and forefathers have tried and which shows us the way. Over the last five hundred years we have been told that this "red road" is no longer there, that our ways are no longer valid, that our ways are no longer alive. And when that did not work, our language was taken away from us by force. My own family and relatives tell me stories of when they went to school, when the people came to our communities and just took the young children, and the young babies. They stole them ! And they brought them to the school. They were beaten when they spoke their language. They had never heard English in their life, but they were beaten when they tried to speak their language. This history is common, whether it was the Anishnawbe, or the Maori in New Zealand, or the people in Australia, or anywhere. They wanted us to stop having our ceremonies. They wanted us to stop singing our songs. They wanted us to stop teaching our children about our connection to the earth. What has sustained indigenous people all these centuries ? Language. Music. Stories. That’s what has sustained us. It has not been NGOs. It has not been organizations. What has sustained us is the bone of the feather, and our choices which were connected to it. This is why I am still here."

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colloque "Vivre avec la Terre", mai 1992


Colloquium, conference, seminar,… report


Réseau Sud Nord Cultures et Développement - 172 rue Joseph II. B-1040 BRUXELLES. BELGIQUE. Tel (19)32 2 230 46 37.Fax (19)32 2 231 14 13 - Belgium

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