The relationship with Great Spirit is what gives the spirit of truth to the eagle. This is why native people who are saying important things will often hold an eagle feather when they speak, as a symbol that they are saying something that is true. You can never lie to Great Spirit, as She/He is in your own heart, in the most intimate part of your being, always. Thus, by holding something as sacred and as close to Great Spirit as an eagle feather, you are obliged to say the truth, there is no way of lying, or the medicine will really get back at you in a nasty way.
People who speak the truth, like in many medicine or healing circles, will often pass around an eagle feather, and sometimes it will be tied on a talking stick. This is a symbol that you are speaking from the heart, that you are speaking your truth, how you really feel. This is powerful, as by confiding your problems, pains and worries to the power of the healing circle you may be assuaged by the honesty and trust in the people that will be carrying your burden with you. There is great healing in being able to trust a circle of likeminded people with the weight life has put on you, and for that to happen you must speak the truth of what and who you really are and feel. Thus, the eagle feather.
The eagle is also a very swift and skilled hunter. It sees very far and very clearly. It can be very high up in the sky and see a small mouse scurrying on the ground way below it. That is another indication of the power of the eagle. Eagle carries the gift of vision. Its eyesight, its ability to look directly at the sun, also a symbol of Great Spirit’s love, his ability to see things that are far away with great precision, are an indication of the ability one can manifest by seeing the truth and being the truth. In having the intention of living “the good life”, as one would say, walking the Red road, doing things which are in harmony with Great Spirit’s original instructions, we open ourselves to seeing far and wide, of receiving the messages and visions that carry Creator’s mission for us.
Its capability to be a good hunter is also associated with leadership; leaders, especially the war chiefs, had to be very good hunters. In that capacity they could prove to the people that they were able to guide them well on the path, making sure they were well fed, and be able to defend the community or the nation and help them be secure and safe. For their acts of valor and merit they would be gifted with eagle feathers.
When an eagle feather was given to somebody, it was not a small matter; they really had to deserve it and it was a high honor.
One story describes how important this is. It’s the story of how originally, before Europeans came to this country, the Innu people of the North would gather the eagle feathers. A young man who wanted to prove his valor, courage, stamina, patience and swiftness, would capture a small rabbit or grouse and tie it to the end of a string. He would dig a pit close to where an eagle would nest. He would put a covering over it, and he would hide in the pit. Then, every time the eagle would fly by, he would pull on the string, so that the prey would move, and the eagle would eventually see it and dive to catch it. He would then have to come very rapidly out of the pit, grab the eagle by the legs, and then pull out the two end tail feathers. This would not impair the eagle’s ability to fly in any way, but would give two feathers to this brave young man. Of course, the eagle was not just letting itself be manhandled! It would bite and scratch and its beak and talons are very sharp. The young man would come out of that experience with quite a few scars. They would be proof of his valor, courage and will to serve. These scars would be carried with pride. He would bring those feathers back to the village, and give them to the elders, who would be very happy and thank him. He would grow in the esteem of his community. Yet, that still was not enough to merit an eagle feather! It took more than that to deserve an eagle feather. The elders would keep the feathers for appropriate circumstances where somebody would really show exceptional courage and valor in protecting and helping the people. The gifting of the eagle feather was the supreme honor, like the insignia and badges of modern day military honors.
Thus, receiving an eagle feather was always something very important and symbolic. It’s significant that the supreme honor bestows upon the Original Native People of this land had such powerful spiritual meaning. The eagle is the conveyor of spirit, the messenger of Creator. It flies over our ceremonies every time we do them right with a pure heart, showing that we have been acknowledged and heard. Then, our hearts are full and we take courage on the narrow path that leads to unity and harmony with all our relations.
As eagle is my medicine, in conclusion, I find that words are too small here to convey what eagle is to the people… Yet, all creatures are a gift of Great Spirit. We need to protect all of life. That’s the supreme mission and responsibility of Humanity: protecting and honoring all life on planet earth.