Dropped Eagle Feather
If you see a feather on the ground anywhere, please don't touch it or move it. Tell the nearest dancer about it and he/she will notify the arena director. If the feather is an Eagle feather and is outside the dance arena, then it is picked up by a veteran with an Eagle fan and transported to a suitable spot on the dance arena and set back on the ground. The arena director will be trying to find the owner. A special ceremony to retrieve the feather is then performed. The feather's owner's tribe will take precedence as to how the ceremony will be performed, due to the varied ways each tribe performs this ceremony.
In the Ojibwe way, four veterans are required. They dance around the feather and the one to pick it up is a wounded combat veteran, preferably. In the Ojibwe way, a dropped Eagle feather must be given away to begin in a new life. In all cases it is given to the veteran who picked it up. The owner, with proper respect, gifts the four veterans with the help of relatives and friends. The drum that sings the special song for the retrieval of the dropped Eagle feather is also compensated by the person who dropped the feather.
In the case where a number of feathers are dropped, by the same person, in a bunch, a spiritual leader will be called to say a prayer over them before the pickup ceremony.
In the American Indian way, it is believed there is a reason for everything. In the case of dropped Eagle feathers, the person who dropped the feather may only have been picked to be the messenger, or signal of something not being right (if that is any consolation) such as misrepresentation by an individual claiming to be other than what he is, or somebody using drugs or alcohol secretly. There is also the possibility of medicine being used wrongly. In any case, the spirits will let you know.
During the ceremony to pick up a dropped Eagle feather there will be no picture taking of any kind allowed.
It should be noted that powwow practices vary from region to region in United States and Canada.
Sincere thanks and acknowledgment to the American Indian Education Committee of the Minnesota State Board of Education who sponsored those who wrote the Ojibwe content of this unit.
©2002 Nihewan Foundation