Aboriginal Day, June 21 (Canada) Aboriginal Day of Prayer, Anglican and Second Sunday after Pentecost
By Ginny Doctor
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
or the arrow that flies by day Psalm 91:2-4
those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
I met Mark MacDonald (National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada) in the mid 1980’s at an Urban Indian ministry meeting in the States. He brought out his guitar and started playing this song called “On Eagle’s Wings,” written by Michael Joncas. I had not heard it but really liked it. It is based on Psalm 91 but the chorus from Isaiah goes like this: “and he will raise you up on Eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn; make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hands.” That song became the national anthem of Indian work in the Episcopal Church and was also know as “Mark’s song.” I was at another meeting and requested “On Eagle’s Wings” but was told, “That’s Father Mark’s song, we can’t sing it without him.”
The eagle has always been a sacred bird for my people, doesn’t matter if it is Golden or Bald, they are both sacred. The Peacemaker came among my people at a time when we weren’t getting along with our relatives. He was on a mission to unify the nations and plant the tree of peace. In order to do that, he had to win over leaders who didn’t want peace but perseverance and wisdom won the hearts of the people. He went from nation to nation spreading his message to be of the good mind. When he planted the Tree of Peace, he placed an eagle at the top. It is the eagle’s responsibility to watch over the peace and to warn the people if a disruption is pulling at the roots of the tree. There were four roots extending to each of the cardinal directions. It is said that anyone who desired to be at peace was to follow the closet root to the live under the Tree of Peace. It is also said that the eagle is a messenger of the Creator and when the peace is disturbed, the eagle is to fly to the Creator and tell of the disruption.
Many First Nations see the eagle as a protector and eagle feathers are sought to bring that protection to a person. It is an honor to receive an eagle feather and it is earned by being of the good mind; by being in right relations with all. For First Nations the eagle feather represents the good qualities of the Seven Traditional teachings: respect, honour, humbleness, truth, love, courage and wisdom. The eagle is the bird that flies the highest in the sky and for many it means that the eagle has a closer connection with the Creator.
I haven’t heard Mark sing “On Eagle’s Wings” in awhile. But, the memories of that song being song at many gatherings are a source of strength. It’s as if the eagle shared its strength with the people gathered and lifted them on her wings. “But those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Mark needs to sing that song!
The Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor is Coordinator of Indigenous Ministries for the Anglican Church of Canada with responsibilities for leadership and spiritual formation. She served as a missionary and as staff in the Diocese of Alaska for eighteen years working on leadership development and training for lay leaders and those seeking ordination. Ginny has also authored several articles appearing in the IKHANA, a publication of the Episcopal Church, The First People’s Theological Journal, The Chant of Life and the Women’s Book of Uncommon Prayers. Ginny resides on the Six Nation Reserve in southern Ontario and is a member of the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan.
Wild Lectionary is curated by Laurel Dykstra, Priest in Charge of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territory.