All eagles are messengers of Kichi Manido, none among them is more blessed by the touch of God than is the next. All are equally sacred. We welcome their presence at our ceremonies and draw strength and comfort for ourselves when holding even a single feather from this bird who soars the highest and sees the furthest. The eagle is our special guide. Without the eagle, it would be more probable that we would lose our way.
There are courageous people, too, who sacrifice of themselves in the name of our future generations. Let us heap praise and honour on them, for they are far too few in number. Such human beings were plentiful in our territories long ago. Where did they disappear to? Lost perhaps, within the cruelly oppressive walls of the Residential Schools Canada forced many of our children to attend. Many who would have become great leaders were also felled in the emotional realm, by any number of the laws legislated by successive Canadian governments to eradicate our identities from our own lands. Outlawing of our spiritual beliefs and not allowing us the right to vote, to name just two examples. Because of what Canada did, we find today that the light which was a strong bold leader has been greatly diminished.
But a flickering of light in a place of darkness has become a grand flame. A fire we will forever remember as the one we gathered around to guide our path at a time of great change for our people.
Theresa Spence is a chief with real courage. She is not afraid of the government of Canada. She is willing to sacrifice her life, if need be, so future generations of her people will find their rightful places in the decision-making processes of all areas that impact the First Nations of this land.
Because of Chief Theresa Spence, the gauge measuring what the community will expect from one who accepts a chieftainship has been elevated to a great degree. The weak and lazy leaders will disappear one by one. The strong and true will take over and follow in the noble footsteps of Chief Theresa Spence. Like the eagle, she guides our way.
The short moments I visited with Chief Theresa Spence are moments I will recall in the future, at times when I seek the inspiration and strength necessary to fight courageously against human rights violations, wherever they occur in my ancestral lands.
Chief Theresa Spence does not sit on a white horse with a sabre raised skyward while shouting a battle charge. Nor can she take on villains 20 at a time, with bone cracking fancy kicks and chops. She is gentle and soft spoken. Her heart is full of compassion for anyone anywhere who lives in misery brought down on them by dishonourable and spiritless colonizers who are so greedy they cannot bring themselves to share the riches they reap from indigenous territories.
Chief Spence, even though physically weak and unsteady from her ordeal, honoured me with strong words of encouragement, and with gifts she wants me to use in my work with our brothers incarcerated in this country’s prison system. Some of the men I work with have lost their way because of traumatic Residential School experiences or had parents or grandparents who, because of neglect and abuse at the schools, did not learn proper parenting skills. Chief Spence prays for the successful rehabilitation of these men and presented me with an eagle wing, an eagle feather and a blanket among other sacred objects, strong in medicine for anyone seeking healing and a crime-free lifestyle.
Chief Theresa Spence is a role model and a hero. She stands in defense of non-violent communication. She will not cower nor will her commitment to our future generations be slowed. The pride I have always had at being of First Nations blood has grown past any point I ever thought possible and it is because of this brave Cree woman. God bless Chief Theresa Spence.
Albert “South Wind” Dumont.