WEAC President Ron Martin, of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, is recipient of an eagle feather for his work for Wisconsin’s public school students, educators and schools. The feather was presented to the Eau Claire eighth grade teacher by a Menominee Nation elder in a surprise ceremony at the WEAC Representative Assembly.
“Presenting an eagle feather is the highest honor among Native people,” said Dennis Kenote, a Navy veteran who was asked by Martin to say an opening prayer in the Menominee language. “You have to earn an eagle feather and ‘Duff’ did. In fact, there is no higher honor among our people.
“The feather symbolizes trust, honor, strength, wisdom, power, freedom and many more things,” Kenote said. “To be given one of these is to be hand-picked out of the rest of the men in the tribe – it’s like getting a gift from a high official, such as a president of the United States.”
WEAC’s Human Civil Rights Committee members came up with the idea after discussions about how proud Martin is of his Native American heritage and his dedication to protecting and fighting for all of Wisconsin’s public school children, staff and communities.
“Committee members were thrilled that the eagle feather presentation was able to be arranged thanks to help from our committee liaison Anne Egan-Waukau,” committee Chair Michelle Frola said. “We’ve enjoyed learning more about Ron’s Native heritage.
“We really caught Ron off guard,” Frola said. “He was very moved by this honor and we know he will uphold the responsibilities that this honor imparts.”
And Martin said he takes the responsibilities seriously.
“I am humbled and honored to be presented an eagle feather for doing what I love and in front of my esteemed colleagues and WEAC leaders,” Martin said. “My grandmother, relatives and tribal members have instilled in me the Chippewa traditions, strength and ways to fight to protect all that we cherish: Environment, children, education and elders. I carry that with me wherever I travel, be it in Wisconsin or Washington D.C.”
Kenote said he was honored to not only present the feather to Martin, but to speak to the members and leaders at WEAC’s annual meeting.
“It was quite an honor to speak to this great group of Wisconsin’s public school staff,” Kenote said. “They are important people in our society. I applaud the work they do and commend them.
“They grow and lead our students on the road to be our leaders in the future and not just Native American kids. They educate all students no matter what their race is,” Kenote said
NOTE: If a Native American Indian is given Golden or Bald Eagle feathers it is one of the most rewarding items they can ever be handed. The Indians believe that eagles have a special connection with the heavens since they fly so close. Many Indians believe that if they are given this feather, it is a symbol from above. Once an Indian receives a feather he must take care of it, and many will hang it up in their homes. It is disrespectful to hide it away in a drawer, closet or encase in glass. An eagle feather is a lot like the American flag, it must be handled with care and can never be dropped on the ground. The only people who can present or pick up an eagle feather from the ground is a veteran of the Military, who are revered as warriors by all native peoples.