Feature: Eagle ceremony with Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
"A dedication ceremony for a relocated bald eagle nest at Bois Forte Heritage Center on Lake Vermilion this week turned into quite the learning experience for me.

While driving there from Virginia, I reflected on what little I really knew and understood about the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. The nature of my job and my readings, combined with several visits to the Heritage Center in the past, have provided me with rudimentary knowledge of Ojibwe history and culture. A few friends that are enrolled members of the band have shared experiences and stories with me. But fundamentally, I feel quite lacking in true understanding of these neighbors of mine.

I was going there to document an event, a ceremony – a celebration in essence, and surely that was straightforward and simple enough. ArcelorMittal Minorca of Virginia, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bois Forte had collaborated to save and relocate a bald eagle nest from mining company property to the Heritage Center, where it would be used for educational purposes.

Upon arrival, a gathering of Tribal Council members, Tribal Chairman Kevin Leecy, Minorca mining company and USFWS officials, band members, Heritage Center staff members, drummers, singers, a spiritual leader, an honor guard of veterans, members of the public and the media were milling about. There was even a real bald eagle, “Angel,” in attendance, representing the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.

The dedication featured brief statements by Chairman Leecy, Heritage Center Director Rose Berens, and spiritual advisor Gene Goodsky, which were preceded and followed by prayers, drumming and singing, burning of sage, and the offering of tobacco by tribal members. The songs were about thanksgiving for the gift they had received, the honoring of the sacred Bald Eagle, and their final song was the “Traveling Song” which asked the Great Spirit to watch over and provide safe passage for people on their journeys home that day. Near the end of the dedication, small portions of a fruit and wild rice snack mixture was shared with attendees. This food-sharing represented an offering to the Creator, who in turn shares the food with the deceased relatives of all of those who partook, both native and nonnative."

Get the Story:
Jean Cole: Bois Forte eagle nest ceremony: A lesson in traditions, and the law (Hometown Focus 6/4)