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By Dale Johnson Posted: December 11, 2017 3:30 p.m.

 President and Vice-Chancellor Vianne Timmons (centre) receives an Eagle Staff from Elder Roy Bison (right) and his son, Teddy Bison (left).
President and Vice-Chancellor Vianne Timmons (centre) receives an Eagle Staff from Elder Roy Bison (right) and his son, Teddy Bison (left). Photo: U of R Photography

The University of Regina has been recognized for its supports for Indigenous students.

An Eagle Staff – a sacred symbol traditionally presented to a warrior or leader for their service to the community – was presented to U of R President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Vianne Timmons by Elder Roy Bison and his son Teddy Bison, a student in the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance.

Elders, singers, and drummers participated in the ceremony.

“It is a tremendous honour for our University to be presented with an Eagle Staff,” says Timmons. "As we continue our efforts toward Indigenization and reconciliation in the coming years, we will do our utmost to live up to this honour and build an inclusive, respectful campus community."

The Eagle Staff is a sacred symbol that is held in high esteem and used for ceremonial purposes, much like a nation’s flag. Each Eagle Staff is unique to the people who created it, to the people to whom it is given, and to the time and place where it was made. The University’s staff includes eagle feathers representing the President’s and Vice-Presidents’ offices as well as each of the University’s faculties. It will be housed in the Office of Indigenization.

This Eagle Staff was created by Elder Roy Bison, his son, Teddy Bison, and his grandson.

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As part of the Eagle Staff ceremony, two Treaty Four flags have been installed in the Research and Innovation Centre. Photo: U of R Photography

“The Eagle Staff is representative of a nation. In our traditional societies when visitors approached an encampment or community the presence of the Eagle Staff meant that the visitors were coming in peace and respect. In contemporary times, the Eagle Staff represents the ideals and values of the owner. It may represent a history. In this case, the Eagle Staff is a powerful symbol of the relationship with the Indigenous people of this territory,” explains Elder Roy Bison.

“The Eagle Staff, which is held in very high regard, contains stories, teachings, and most importantly identity,” Teddy Bison says. “I felt the University of Regina needed an Eagle Staff to recognize the perseverance of First Nations students who continue to come through these hallways to obtain their degrees and want to better their lives for themselves, families, and communities.”

“I’m optimistic that our continuing efforts to Indigenize the University are having a positive impact, there is still more we can and will do,” Timmons said. “For example, as part of the Eagle Staff ceremony today the University installed two Treaty Four flags in the hallway of the Research and Innovation Centre. They now hang beside the Aboriginal Student Centre and Office of Indigenization in recognition that as Canadians we are all treaty people.”

The University’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan: peyak aski kikawinaw, Cree for “We are one with mother earth,” includes the overarching commitment to Indigenization and increasing Indigenous student access to and success at the University.

There were 1,943 Indigenous students registered for classes in Fall 2017, which is 13 per cent of the University’s student population. This is a 91 per cent increase in the number of students who have self-identified as Aboriginal compared to 2010.

The University of Regina Main and College Avenue Campuses, the City of Regina and most of southern Saskatchewan are encompassed by Treaty Four, which also extends into Manitoba and Alberta.