Eagle feather flies again on downtown prayer pole

A new eagle feather has been placed at the prayer pole in downtown Ashland near the Plaza, replacing one stolen in August.

As part of the third First Nations Day/Native EcoSymposium on Sept. 20-21, Red Earth Descendants hosted a traditional healing longhouse ceremony, led by Native American elder and Lineage Holder Roy Hayes, the great, great grandson of Chief Joseph. At a ceremony Sunday morning, Native sculptor Russell Beebe presented an eagle feather, gifted by SOU professor and Director of Native American Studies David West to honor and rededicate a prayer feather back to the We Are Here "Grandma Aggie" statue.

Approximately 60 participants at R.E.D.'s early morning longhouse gathering each held and blessed the sacred eagle feather, offering prayers before it was taken to the statue site hours later. The Whistling Elk Drum sang three honoring songs to welcome the new eagle feather to its place of honor back on the prayer pole.

Professor West sent word that his gift of his personal eagle feather was to help heal the pain caused by the theft of the Wahpepah Family eagle feather, which had flown in the carved hand of the Grandma Aggie statue for almost two years.

The previous eagle feather had been gifted from the Dan Wahpepah family and had been in his family for 30 years, and also blessed his wedding ceremony. After the theft and desecration of the Wahpepah Family eagle feather, Wahpepah was joined at the statue/prayer pole by the local Native community, including elders Agnes Baker-Pilgrim and Eddie Little Crow, to grieve the loss of the eagle feather, and to also traditionally honor the feather with the Whistling Elk Drum singing/drumming three Honoring Songs to assist the feather on its journey. Wahpepah said at the time that the eagle feather is a "direct line of prayer to the Creator," and to urge the thief to return the eagle feather, no questions asked.

Speaking recently at SOU, Longhouse Elder Roy Hayes said, "We do this for the children's sake, so things can go on. In the future, they might make this world better. It is possible. Life is important and sacred. Sometimes we do things that will make it better for all, and sometimes people make mistakes. This life is beautiful if we make it so. The feather is very special to Native People, and is a blessing and part of our family."

Wahpepah, one of the founders of R.E.D, is also keeper of the whistling elk drum, which traditionally honors Creator with drumming/singing ancient sacred songs which are "prayers."

"We also honor Creator with the eagle feather," native sculptor Russell Beebe said "It hurt us a lot that the feather was previously taken from our prayer pole. It was magical creating this statue, our prayer pole, and we had an empty feeling when the feather left."

"As Grandmother Janet said at our First Nations Day/Native EcoSymposium, the feathers are like children that we raise up and have to let go into the world so they can fulfill their life purpose according to Creator," Wahpepeah said Sunday. "We have one of our elders, David West, now giving his personal eagle feather to be rededicated to this statue, because it sickened his heart for the statue/prayer pole to have no eagle feather anymore. Our Native People say, 'We are not beaten until our hearts are on the ground'. With the women singing with us here today, we can do this. This Eagle Feather is meaningful to our elder, David West, and he'll now drive up Main Street and see it back up in Grandma Aggie's hand, and it will make our statue/prayer pole beautiful again for our whole community."

In September 2006, the Ashland Mayor and City Council declared a First Nations Day be honored in Ashland with the closing of Main Street for a walk that included hundreds of Native Peoples dedicating the newly carved statue. The carved 20-foot alder statue honors and depicts a Takelma woman in her youth, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, and also a Shasta Tribal male, along with the Salmon, Bear, Tree, and Duck Nations. It also honors the Native Peoples of this region, who 150 years ago, had to suffer and endure the Trail of Tears in Oregon.

Grandma Aggie is head of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.

Developer Lloyd Haines commissioned the original sculpture.

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