Waterloo welcomes an Eagle Staff
An important symbol of Indigenous acknowledgement, the Eagle Staff will serve as a beacon of reconciliation
An important symbol of Indigenous acknowledgement, the Eagle Staff will serve as a beacon of reconciliationBy Stephanie Longeway University Relations
On March 27, the University of Waterloo community came together to welcome an Eagle Staff to our institution. The day began with a Sunrise Ceremony followed by a formal introduction ceremony held at Federation Hall. The ceremony began with drumming from the Cedar Hill Singers and a procession, followed by a prayer of thanks led by Elder Bill Woodworth. Indigenous Knowledge Keeper, Elder Myeengun Henry, introduced the sacred Eagle Staff on behalf of the University’s Indigenous community, marking an important step in Waterloo’s journey towards reconciliation.
Henry thanked the crowd for joining in the celebration and said, “we are going to witness a monumental moment for the University as we act on reconciliation … Our University will be able to say that we are one of the few in Canada that holds an Eagle Staff in such honour.”
An Eagle Staff is an important element of the Indigenous relationship to Earth and those that have protected it. It reflects the wisdom, strength and honour of those that carry it in representing the Nations across Turtle Island. By introducing the Eagle Staff, the University honours the responsibility to take on Indigenous perspectives in the ways we teach, govern and behave as an institution.
In recognition of the four directions of Earth, Henry presented the Staff to Waterloo’s president and vice-chancellor, Vivek Goel, four times to mark the transfer of the Staff to the University.
"This follows the commitment that we made in a reconciliation ceremony last September. We made it as individuals and as an institution to work with our colleagues across all our campuses to truly recognize and understand the truth, and work towards reconciliation," said Goel after receiving the Staff. "The Eagle Staff will become an integral part of the symbols of our institution. Our flag, our mace, and now the Eagle Staff, which will represent our connection with Mother Earth and the Indigenous Peoples of this land."
The Eagle Staff will be present at future Waterloo ceremonies and celebrations and will have a prominent place in convocation ceremonies.
“The Eagle Staff will enter convocation first, before the mace or the flag. The Staff clears the way for everything that comes after it,” said Jean Becker, associate vice-president of Indigenous Relations. “An eagle represents love … Love is the first teaching because without love you cannot achieve the rest of your teachings. It takes love to lead the way.”
Becker noted that the Eagle Staff will undergo a transformation led by a group of Indigenous students. Eagle Staffs are unique and adorned with beadwork and feathers that represent a specific meaning to the communities who honour them. She said, “We will be having our students help us create what the Staff will be for the University. It will be done very deliberately and thoughtfully of the next couple of months.”
The Eagle Staff will be representative of the University’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit community members, as well as their traditions, cultures and strengths. The President explained that he hopes this Eagle Staff will also serve as a reminder of the University’s responsibility to Indigenization and an inspiration for our University community today and for future generations.
The University of Waterloo acknowledges that much of our work takes place on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee peoples. Our main campus is situated on the Haldimand Tract, the land granted to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. Our active work toward reconciliation takes place across our campuses through research, learning, teaching, and community building, and is co-ordinated within our Office of Indigenous Relations.