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F.P. Walshe graduating students receive eagle feather blessing

Blackfoot elder Peter Strikes With A Gun gives an eagle feather blessing to Brandon Creighton.

An eagle feather blessing on Thursday prepared six F.P. Walshe school graduating students for the next chapter in their lives.

Blackfoot elder Peter Strikes With A Gun conducted the ceremony in the school’s main foyer for First Nations and Metis students.

“Today we do a blessing of feathers,” Strikes With A Gun said of a ceremony he has performed for two decades. “I believe when we get to this age we can look back and say, ‘We have fought a good fight’.”

Students who received the blessing were Sarah Beebe, Janelle Many Bears, Ryan Cervo, Kyrell English, Kristina LaCerte and Brandon Creighton.

The eagle feather is one of the most sacred symbols for Blackfoot people and the blessing helps prepare the young people for responsibility.

“As you are moving on there is a spiritual connection that you will be able to understand and appreciate all these accomplishments,” Strikes With A Gun said.

The ceremony was carried out in front of a set designed and built by teacher Dan Orr and decorated by art teacher Shannon Tynan.

There was a small crowd on hand for the ceremony, which was also streamed on the school’s Facebook page.

“Graduation is a special moment in one’s life,” F.P. Walshe school principal Chad Jensen said. “We couldn’t be more proud of these six Indigenous students who are being honoured here today.”

“Graduation is truly an accomplishment they can all be proud of, and personally it’s been a privilege to see them grow and mature.”

Jensen said the six grads are their own unique person, with individual skills, talents and strengths that will take them far in life.

“You graduates will all be experiencing new challenges, successes and failures — but all of these experiences are going to continue to shape who you are,” Jensen said. “I encourage you to learn from your mistakes, use your talents for good and continue to discover and be who you truly are as a person.”

Jensen spoke about his personal relationship with each of the students, before turning the ceremony over to Strikes With A Gun.

Blackfoot elder Peter Strikes With A Gun accompanies himself on a hand drum with an victory song for the First Nations and Metis students.

“It’s an honour today to have the benefit of seeing the success of our children, especially at this time when we were put into a really severe test,” Strikes With A Gun said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was something that we never thought would come about.”

The pandemic changed lives when it was declared in Alberta in March 2020.

“I feel that this is one test that really showed the faith and belief.”

The Blackfoot people always looked at each new day as a sort of birth. Their ancestors knew that warnings and dangers were present.

“Today we still have that understanding that there are unforeseen events,” Strikes With A Gun said. “So, we prepare ourselves for these kinds of difficulties.”

Strikes With A Gun told the students to prepare for the challenges and tests that will come their way following graduation.

“We get stronger with the things that we can overcome,” Strikes With A Gun said.

The eagle feathers were formally presented Saturday during the F.P. Walshe school cap and gown ceremony.

Peter Strikes With A Gun closed the ceremony with a song.

“Our elders always said there is a song for everything,” Strikes With A Gun said. “This is a victory song.”

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