Historic moment as U of R gifted eagle staff
- EFN Staff | December 12, 2017
Faculty, staff, students and community members gathered to witness a historical moment at the University of Regina when on December 11th, the U of R was gifted and honoured with an Eagle Staff created by a student and his father. Teddy and Roy Bison created the sacred item together three years ago after realizing the university did not have one.
“I was surprised the didn’t have an Eagle Staff,” said Bison, a third-year U of R student in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance. “This Eagle Staff signifies our identity as First Nations people. There’s a lot of stories and teachings that goes with an Eagle Staff. It’s not just a stick with feathers on it.”
Bison approached the Aboriginal Student Centre and shared his idea of gifting the university with an Eagle Staff. Indigenous students make up 13% of the U of R’s student population as recorded in the Fall 2017 semester. That percentage is a 91% increase compared to 2010. Bison felt it was necessary to have the Eagle Staff housed in the university where students can embrace their identity as an Indigenous student.
“There’s so many First Nations people that come to this school to get their degrees and education,” he said. “It’s a sense of home because there’s a lot of people out in the communities who know what [the Eagle Staff] means – it’s respect.”
Elder Bison, who did the beadwork on the Eagle Staff, explained that the sacred item is representative of a nation and is a powerful symbol of the relationship with the Indigenous people of this territory.
“Through the beading, we think of the faculties and of all the people that are coming to this university from abroad,” said Elder Bison. “Generation to generation, this [Eagle Staff] is going to carry on.”
Dr. Vianne Timmons, U of R President and Vice-Chancellor, said accepting this gift shows how the university continues to honour the commitment to Indigenization in its 2015-2020 Strategic Plan: peyak aski kikawinaw which is Cree for We are one with mother earth.
“It is a tremendous honour for our University to be presented with an Eagle Staff, which is traditionally reserved for a warrior or leader who has earned distinction through service to the community,” said Timmons. “As we continue our efforts toward Indigenization and reconciliation in the coming years, we will do our utmost to live up to this honour and build an inclusive, respectful campus community where we are proud to say and demonstrate that we are all Treaty people.”
Along with the Eagle Staff ceremony, the U of R also installed two Treaty Four flags in the hallway of the RIC building that hang beside the Aboriginal Student Centre and Office of Indigenization.
The Eagle Staff will be placed in the Office of Indigenization in the Research and Innovation Centre (RIC) building on campus which is beside the Aboriginal Student Centre. With one year left of schooling, Bison said he will do his part to take care of the Eagle Staff and reflect on not only the U of R’s action towards Indigenization but the time he spent making the sacred item with his father.