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Eagle feather ceremony honors 37 Detroit Lakes High School seniors

Mike Swan, a cultural liaison for the school district, explained that the ceremony was held in honor and recognition of the Native American Studies students' many kindnesses and life accomplishments.

Presenter Mike Swan, who is the cultural liaison for the Detroit Lakes School District, and Melanie Holmquist, the college and career facilitator who also taught Native American Studies this year, spoke with a student before an eagle feather ceremony on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Presenter Mike Swan, who is the cultural liaison for the Detroit Lakes School District, and Melanie Holmquist, the college and career facilitator who also taught Native American Studies this year, spoke with a student before an eagle feather ceremony on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — Thirty-seven Detroit Lakes High School seniors participated in an eagle feather ceremony on Wednesday, May 11.

Mike Swan, a cultural liaison for the school district, explained that the ceremony was held in honor and recognition of the students' many kindnesses and life accomplishments.

“The eagle feather represents strength, and is a gift from the Creator that is used in a lot of ceremonies,” Swan said. “The tale is the eagle flies the highest of all birds and can take prayers to the sun and the Creator.”

He recalled how his first eagle feather came to him after helping a stranger: a man’s vehicle experienced brake failure and his bank account didn’t allow for repairs, so Swan helped him out. Swan wouldn’t accept any sort of payment or thanks, other than to join the man and his family for a bowl of soup. To Swan’s surprise, word spread about his kind deed and he was honored for it at a gathering.

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Thirty-seven graduating seniors at Detroit Lakes High School participated in an eagle feather ceremony on Wednesday, May 11.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Eagle feathers are earned, not given,” said Melonie Holmquist, the college and career facilitator at Detroit Lakes High School, who also taught Native American Studies this year.

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Holmquist said there were two Native American Studies classes offered at the senior high, and both were full with 30 students each. The class is open to all students and teaches about Native American culture, language, art, drum making, bead work and more. History not taught in books is also shared.

Swan noted that much of the history of Native Americans has been passed down from generation to generation through oral recollections.

The soon-to-be graduates were each given a feather, and were also given handcrafted blankets, made by a women’s group from a Lutheran church in Menahga, to protect and remind them that others care about them.

Obtaining the eagle feathers for the ceremony is about a year-long process that requires applying to a federal agency.

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Detroit Lakes High School graduating seniors in the Native American studies class earned the right to participate in an eagle feather ceremony. Before the Wednesday, May 11 ceremony, a meal was served to the students and their guests.
Barbie Porter / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The eagle feather ceremony started with breaking bread with family and friends, and went on to include speeches and the presentation of the eagle feather to: Harper Bellefeuille, Kobey Block, Beau Boehne, Savannah Burrow, Donald DeGroat, Mox Disse, Jacob Ehnert, Jordan Ehnert, Erin Essery, Ava Guaman Person, Solomon Gulbranson, Hunter Haggart, Janee Harstad, Reace Holm, Ellie Hultin, Danika Jacobson, Bayleigh Johnson, Tori Lafriniere, Lexus Lamblez, Juanita Lopez, Jadyn McDougall, Alexsandra McDougall, Dylan Mekola, Skylar Nelson, Emily Peake, Josie Retz, Hallie Rishovd, Riley Rousu, Christina Sandoval, Brailee Sgro, Lakisha Sperry, Sean St. Claire, Brittany Stearns, Blaine Suedel, Ali Swanson, Jason Vizenor, Gabrielle Wang, Allyssa Witthoeft and Gary Wood.

Related Topics: BECKER COUNTYDETROIT LAKES
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