In 2002, the Manitoba RCMP received our very first eagle staff. The eagle staff was gifted to Sergeant (Sgt.) Sam Anderson and the RCMP, from community members who wanted to acknowledge the positive work our officers were doing with Indigenous communities in the Province. Inspector (Insp.) Dave Shuttleworth was the first eagle staff carrier and was chosen because he practises First Nations spirituality and traditions.
What is an eagle staff?
An eagle staff, in First Nation culture, is similar to a nation's flag. It is a unique and sacred symbol that represents traditional First Nation culture and people.
The parts of the Manitoba RCMP's eagle staff
The staff is made out of wood, which represents the teaching of honesty in Indigenous culture.
The fur that covers the staff is beaver fur and represents wisdom. We want to try to make the wisest decisions we can with the information we have.
The shield is a buffalo. In First Nation culture, the buffalo represents respect. Two of these teachings, honesty and respect, are a part of the RCMP Core Values.
The red cloth on the staff came from Sgt. Sam Anderson's red serge uniform. Red is a sacred colour in First Nation culture. When used in a diverse setting, it represents the First Nations peoples.
The eagle feather is a rare and powerful gift to receive and represents love because of the eagle's ability to fly closest to the Creator. Our eagle staff is adorned with 24 eagle feathers.
- Four of the feathers represent the four races and the four directions.
- Seven of the feathers represent the seven sacred laws: Love, Respect, Honesty, Humility, Truth, Wisdom, and Courage.
- Thirteen of the feathers represent the 13 Provinces and Territories that the RCMP provide service to and the 13 moon cycles.
- Lastly and most importantly, there are three eagle feathers that are dyed red. They represent the three Manitoba RCMP Indigenous officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The RCMP officers were:
- Special Constable Norman Massan (1931)
- Special Constable Rob Thomas (1986)
- Constable Dennis Strongquill (2011)
Who can carry the staff?
The staff may be carried by almost anyone, but as a sacred object, permission must be obtained first. The keeper of the staff has the responsibility to keep it safe. The keeper also has an obligation to pass on the teachings of the staff to the person who has requested it. That person must also be prepared to explain the significance of each part of the staff.
Are there any other rules we should know about the staff?
As a sign of respect it is encouraged that a person stands when an eagle staff is ushered in and out of a ceremony. It is also proper to ask permission before touching the staff. If you are given the responsibility to carry the staff, you should refrain from allowing it to touch the ground. If you cannot set it in a proper stand, it should rest on your footwear, or another object.
Who is the current caretaker of the Manitoba RCMP's eagle staff?
Insp. Shuttleworth passed the responsibilities of the eagle staff to Sgt. Cathy Farrell who is Cree and follows the Red Path (traditional Indigenous ways). There are several other employees who regularly carry the staff at various events where the Manitoba RCMP is involved.
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