On Friday May 7, 2021, the newly created Eagle Staff and Chief’s Hat were ready to return to our community. Gathering restrictions in place due to the pandemic meant that a community celebration was not possible at that time.
A small group met at the John Snake Memorial Multi-Purpose Grounds. This included our Chief Ted Williams, Head Councillor Lorraine McRae, Chief Administrative Officer Evelyn Ball, James Simcoe and Tim McGregor, who created the articles for Rama.
They began with a smudge and told the story of how the items came to be. Tim shared the creation process. He spoke of the beautiful bead work his daughter did, how to care for each, and how to assemble the staff.
James requested that the Chief’s Hat be lowered by the women. Lorraine and Evelyn both spoke about why Chief Williams deserves to wear the Chief’s Hat, the importance of sharing our teachings and being proud of our sacred items.
A traditional meal was not possible, so Time and his family were given fish, wild rice, berries and corn. They were also given medicines and a cast-iron smudge pan. Chief Williams provided the family with the gift of a bear he carved himself. A personal gift is required as each Chief’s Hat is specific to the person it was made for. This will not pass from Chief to Chief as previous headdresses did.
Songs were shared. The intention to introduce the Eagle Staff and the Chief’s Hat to the community as soon as we could was shared by the group. The retiring Eagle Staff, shown on the right, will continue to be used in ceremony, but will reside and be cared for by our Seniors at the Getsidjig Endaawaad Residence.
These items are here to help us. They are not just tokens but they have meaning, purpose and life.
The design for the new Eagle staff began a long time ago with the late John Snake. He worked with students at MKES and together, they created this concept.
Knowing of the quality of his work, Rama asked Tim McGregor to make the staff for Rama. Tim accepted tobacco and the request to make the
Once the Eagle feathers were bathed and prepared, they went to 13 families/homes within the community. Each home/family was chosen to achieve the best representation of our the community.
There are many important components of the staff that tell a story. For example, the flags tell of our past in the World Wars allied with the United States.
The original instructions contained an eloquent description of the meanings of the colours on the miigwaanag, what was to be included on the banner to symbolize items and events of community importance and finally, the type of wood for the staff and how it was to be made.
The staff is a living item and we hope to add more to, based on community input and needs in the future.
Through the cards and this website, we want to continue to educate, for everyone to see the magnificence of the work done in creating both of these items.
It’s been told that when many of our artifacts and sacred items were made illegal by the Canadian government. Much was lost in RCMP raids on reserves. We borrowed the western Plains bonnet for a time, until the time was right to bring our Chief’s Hat back into use in our community. We will officially use the new Eagle Staff and the Chief’s Hat at our Powwow in Grand Entry on August 21, 2021.
The headdress was described to Tim McGregor as Gimaa Wiiwkwaan, or the Chief’s Hat. It symbolizes the recognition that the community places on its leader, the Gimaa (Chief). This style is representative of the Anishinabeg who are the people of the Woodlands.
Tim began making the Wiiwkwaan using wiigwaas and deerhide looking to many sources including historical photos to get ideas on the construction. He said that one of the best sources of imagery came as he was coming down the escalator after a concert at Casino Rama. On the far wall, was a larger than life image of a Gimaa wearing the Woodland style Wiiwkwaan.
Gimaa Wiiwkwaan are made two ways according to Tim. The first is constructed out of wiigwaas and lined with deerhide. The second is a velvet beaded band with straight up eagle tail feathers. This is the style chosen for Rama, with the velvet band beaded in the colours, designs and symbols given to him to use by Gimaa Ted Williams.
Velvet was a tradecloth item that was bartered for generations ago and symbolic of the trade between nations. The velvet cloth was used for ceremonial wear.
The eagle tail provides direction and lift for Migizi. Inclusion in the Wiiwkwaan symbolizes the direction that is necessary for leadership. The beaded designs are Woodland floral, representative of our homeland, with the round beaded community logo described in more detail where the Gimaa comes from.
Gimaa Wiiwkwaan are being adopted again by our communities as the Anishinabeg reclaim our heritage.
Stay tuned for more information from Rama Heritage