oil is used to cleanse the feathers yearly by applying medicine
with smooth even brush strokes from the shaft outward to the
members were encouraged to bring in their cedar boxes and
containers to cleanse their personal Eagle feather collection.
On Oct. 19-21, the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture &
Lifeways hosted another cultural event where the community came
together for their 18th annual eagle feather cleansing, honoring
The more than 500 eagle feathers displayed are an example of
honoring the life of the Anishinabe people, past and present, and
an honoring of the life and the spirit of the eagle. This gives
blessings and strength to Anishinabe people.
Anishinaabe kwe, Ziibiwing staff and community members participated
in the annual eagle feather cleansing on Oct. 19.
Curator William Johnson said that Ziibiwing understands and
accepts the physical and spiritual responsibility in maintaining
the sacred and ceremonial collection.
"(The cleansing) is a lot of work that we take seriously, and
we are highly honored to have the Saginaw Chippewa eagle staff with
us for the first time," Johnson said. "The Eagle feathers in the
sacred and ceremonial collection are well cared for and it shows.
Many community members and young people brought their Eagle feathers
in for cleansing and for that we're grateful."
Kent Jackson, elder and weekaun (spiritual leader) of the Anishinabe
Ogitchedaw Veterans Warrior Society, was a part of the three-day
teaching and he shared some of what he has learned from his elders
at the Oct. 21 feast.
"It was shared a long time ago that this bird saved Anishinaabe
people when it found the Creator's instruction and brought it back
down to us," Jackson said. "The eagle sees great distances and knows
the struggles we have, shares our pain with Gitchi Manitou (Great
Spirit) and carries the solution back through the spirit contained
in the feathers. The eagle sees the smoke rising (and) sacred fires
lit all across Indian Country and reports back to the Creator every
day of what's happening on Mother Earth and Anishinaabe people."
Anishinaabe kwe Victoria Voges applies cedar oil to a headdress
that dates back more than 100 years.
teachings of Anishinaabe kwe responsibilities can be seen
as these women cleanse the SCIT eagle staff.
Anishinabe people need to attend these ceremonies themselves,
Jackson said. Until you actually come out and participate, that's
when you get the full power of what the teachings and feathers are
"Each one of these feathers has a story that needs to be told
and shared," Jackson said.
Anishinaabe kwe Maria Colberg, whose spirit name is Angel Eyes,
participated all three days.
"It was a great honor to bring these spiritual items out of
the collection and I find these feathers want to be social and to
do the work the Creator intended," Colberg said. "In preserving,
cleaning and honoring them, the whole ceremony has been beautifully
This year's ceremony marked the first time the SCIT eagle staff
came in for cleansing.
"One thing I tried to do while cleaning the feather for the
SCIT Eagle Staff is to remember the spirit that comes through and
the comfort it gives in all the locations and ceremonies it is used
in," Colberg said. "Many people don't get the blessing to be this
close to such a spiritual gift for the people and I take reverence
and extreme care in this responsibility. The honor to do this special
cleansing is a high honor because of what the staff represents to
all the people."
and sunlight can have an adverse effect on Eagle feather bustles
and cedar oil keep feathers from becoming brittle.
Chief Frank Cloutier brought eagle feather plumes he donated
that will be cleaned and incorporated into the staff, Colberg said.
Victoria Voges is a Potawatomi Anishinaabe kwe who traveled
from Okemos to participate.
"The experience itself of just being in this room, and the history
it represents, is beyond words," Voges said. "Feathers that are
taken out in the public or used in healing need a cleaning, just
like any of the other spiritual items used in ceremony. These feathers
are still alive because of the spirit that comes through them. If
the feathers aren't cleansed, the spirit within has a harder time
coming through to provide the healing touch they offer us freely."