Sacred Items and Bundles

TREATY 2 TERRITORY: Indigenous people have been blessed with ceremonial ways to enact their relationship with the spiritual and natural realms. Indigenous knowledge keepers and practitioners understand that the tools used to help in this level of communication are kept in a particular physical package that has come to be recognized as a bundle.

When we carry sacred items, we carry them with recognition that everything in Creation has spirit, including the animals and plants, the rocks, the water, the moon, and the stars. Even one feather of a bird has spirit. When we carry a feather in our bundle and use it for our personal prayers and ceremony, we are calling on the spirit of that bird for help and guidance.

A pipe can be a Grandmother or a Grandfather. Usually when women carry it, it is referred to as a Grandmother and when men carry it, it is referred to as a Grandfather. The pipe itself represents the woman and man, the bowl representing the woman and the stem, the man. The pipe was given to Native people as a way of communicating with the Creator; a direct link is formed. When the pipe is smoked or touched, people are putting their thoughts and prayers into it. 

The drum is the heartbeat of our people; it is the heartbeat of life. We live the first nine months of our lives within our mothers, and we listen to the heartbeat; it sets the pattern of existence. 

There are various types of drumsticks. Some people refer to the drumstick as being part of the Thunderbirds. Other teachings say that the drumstick is the arm of the Great Spirit who gives us a heartbeat.

It is said that before the Creator made everyone the universe was in darkness and the only sound was the sound that a shaker makes, the shaking of seeds in a gourd. The spirits are drawn in when many people use their shakers as they sing a song. 

Eagle Feather
The eagle is one of the ones that is closest to the Creator because he can fly so high, and he spoke for the people. In the old ways, if you did something remarkable for your people you had the right to an eagle feather. If a warrior proved himself in battle, facing an enemy, he received a feather. Today, the greatest enemy Native people face is alcohol and drugs. If you are in battle with one of these, you are in a battle for your life. When you overcome alcohol or drugs, you have won the battle and you become a warrior. You earn an eagle feather, and you must live by it. It is a high honour to receive an eagle feather. 

Sacred Bundles
Many First Nations people who follow their traditional teachings will have sacred items to help and guide them. A sacred bundle can consist of one or many sacred items. It can be the little tobacco pouch that someone wears around their neck, or it can be the items that the spirits have given to a person to carry for the people.

Personal Bundles
You may have a personal bundle that you have built with items you have gathered and that you take care of. This bundle is sacred to you. It contains items that help you in your personal development; it contains items that have given you a teaching and that you use in ceremonies. Maybe your parents or your grandparents or an Elder gave you something to help you on your path. All the contents of your bundle relate to you. Your personal bundle may include medicines, your drum, a bowl, a rock, your colours, a feather, a staff, a rattle and your pipe. You may also carry a clan marker, something that represents your clan, such as a bear claw if you are of the Bear clan. Tobacco is always first in your bundle. These items remind us of the beauty of Creation.

Bundles for the People
The bundles for the people are used for healing and ceremonies. It is said that these bundles contain things that the Nations need to survive. The Healers who carry the medicine bundles say they do not own these bundles. They say that our people’s understanding is that we do not own anything, not even our physical body which is given back to the earth when we die. They carry these items as gifts for the people. The Healers who take care of these bundles have been chosen by the spirits to carry on the teachings, the work and the responsibilities that come with these bundles. 

Respecting and Honouring Sacred Items and Bundles
Some people display their sacred items in a special room. Others keep them in the bundle until they are ready to use in ceremony. Some leave their feathers out as they may have been given to them to create calmness in the home. People feast their sacred items four times a year with the seasons or twice a year in the Spring and Fall. Some people feast them every time they do a ceremony. 

Every article in the medicine bundle had spiritual significance and called for a special song whenever its owner exposed it to light. Songs and a sacred myth belonged to the bundle itself. Fixed rules of inheritance governed the sale of each bundle from generation to generation. Formal transfer was a solemn ceremony and the new owner had to learn the significance of all objects in the bundle, details of visions to which they owed their origins, and songs that established their validity. Feasts were given for bundles by both owners and non-owners. Traditionally and in modern times, medicine bundles have been a vital part of Indigenous spirituality on the Plains.

Submitted by: Renée McGurry, Earth Lodge Development Helper

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