Dawn is a Feather Keeper and takes this job very seriously. Our birds are sacred; they are our connection to creator, the keepers of our environment and protectors and guiders of our existence.
Feathers have travelled to places that we cannot reach as mere people and are one of the most sacred items that can be given. A feather is a symbol from above that arrives unexpectedly and not without purpose.
Birds as our messengers do not part with their feathers unless there is good reason: a lesson to be taught, a message to be shared, a comfort to be given or a reminder that we need to improve upon our behaviour or ethics.
To possess a feather requires that you respect it’s significance. Keep a feather safe and clean, do not hide your feather in a closet, box or drawer, do not drop it on the ground. Your gift of a feather demands that you stay connected to it and the natural world – not forgetting that we rely on each other for survival and are all equal in insuring the health of the land.
To hold feathers is a gift and gifts should be reciprocated. If you have found a feather, please give back to say thank you. Put tobacco down.
Does PTF sell feathers?
Pass The Feather wraps any feathers to create smudge fans and arranges feathers to make Indigenous art and ceremonial pieces. Pass The Feather does not sell Eagle feathers or feathers that are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.
For the cost of labour and materials such as leather and beads, we share our feathers with those who understand their importance and wish to use them to connect with Creator.
How are our feathers obtained?
We work with respected hunters across Ontario whose #1 priority is to never waste any of the harvest. Previously, there was no where to donate the feathers leaving hunters no option but to throw them out. Pass The Feather sees the feathers as sacred and makes it a priority to collect, clean and use them in a way that thanks and respects the animal for it's sacrifice.
Pass The Feather also works with wildlife rehabilitation facilities that understand our Indigenous connection to birds. If a bird has been injured due to human interference (hit by car, window strikes, hydro lines, etc.) we will do ceremony and remove the feathers to create sacred pieces that can be shared to educate and comfort our communities.
What feathers do we work with?
Pass The Feather will work with any feathers. Should you have feathers in your possession that have been gifted to you, Pass The Feather will wrap them for you. Pass The Feather does not sell the feathers of any migratory / protected birds but will dress them for your ceremonial purposes for the cost of materials and labour. The artist, Dawn Setford is status First Nations registered under the Indian Act and can have feathers in her possession without the intent to sell.
Like all teachings, stories will vary between generations. Your Grandmother's story may not be the same as another Grandmother's story. It is important to remember that while not all teachings come to us in the same way, the lesson to be learned should always remain consistent. These are my teachings and these are my stories.
The Eagle is most revered of the birds as she is the highest flyer and can carry our messages to Creator; crossing between the spiritual and material worlds. The Eagle symbolizes insight, strength and spiritual wisdom and when soaring she can see farther then the scope of any other being. It is true that the eagle sees beyond what is in front of her and so carries much more insight. In its flight path, there is a different perspective and the
Eagle reminds us that our vision is often too limited to see simple solutions. We look to her for guidance and to prepare us for what is ahead. The Eagle teaches us to face the fear of the unknown and gifts us courage to fly as high as we can. Eagle feathers are only to be gifted to someone by an Elder who understands the spiritual power.
To buy or kill an Eagle for its feathers is a dire spiritual mistake and is highly illegal. If you are making regalia and desire Eagle feathers, replicas can be purchased.
Pass The Feather does not buy, sell or create with Eagle feathers. Dawn is not an Elder and does not carry the knowledge and medicines to accept such an important responsibility.
If you are in possession of an Eagle feather and want to cross the border into the U.S. from Canada you have to hold a status card. Visit https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100032773/1100100032774
In Canada, Eagle feathers are repatriated to Status Indians for ceremony. Contact Ministry of Natural Resources for more information. Likewise, federally recognized 'Indians' in the U.S. may have access to Eagle feathers. Visit: https://www.fws.gov/faq/featherfaq.html
Second only to the Eagle, the Hawk is also a wise bird and also willing to carry our messages to the spirit world. The hawk is far sighted, focused and observant; she is the guardian.
When we see a hawk soaring above us, most of us pause to look; this is an example of how she can influence us and force us to reflect. When you see her, ask her for guidance. If you are struggling with a decision or find yourself in a predicament, look for her. She flies so high that she sees past the mountain that you find yourself facing. She already knows how you will get around it or over it - because she can see past it.
Hawks often show up when we need to pay closer attention to things going on around us – she awakens us from living in the moment to living with future purpose. She reminds us to be grateful and to fulfill our purposes, to evaluate the work we have done and see what is left to do.
Hawk feathers are to be revered and kept in a protected place – they are not to be taken lightly.
*You can request a free gift of Red Tail Hawk feathers when you special order ceremonial smudge feathers or feather bundles.
The Owl’s medicine includes protection, wisdom, accuracy, insight and silence. Humans must sleep and it is at that time that we are most vulnerable and in need of protection. The Owl is our night guardian that sees clearly in the darkest worlds. She is often thought to have the capability of being a messenger that can travel between the worlds of the living and dead – bringing us wisdom to learn from our ancestors. Likewise, the Owl reminds us that although we may find ourselves in dark and frightening places, that we are never alone. She brings us the gift us seeing what is beneath the surface and teaches us not to be deceived by appearance.
Finding an Owl feather is rare – perhaps because they sacrifice everything for our protection.
*You can request a free gift of Great Horned, Snowy or Barred Owl feathers when you special order ceremonial smudge feathers or feather bundles.
The Goose is a symbol of equality, cooperation and the connection between the land and the sky world. They move in groups by way of unique formation and share in leadership – teaching us that we are all equal. They never stop working together and represent our dependance on each other's strengths.
In many Indigenous nations, geese play a large part in the Creation story and have the role of bringing the first woman (Sky Woman) down to sit on the Turtle’s back. It is with their help that Sky Woman created Turtle Island (North America).
Geese are the tellers of the seasons of labour – they call down to us in an unmistakable tone of authority to alert us to our duties. This bird teaches us to migrate together in search of spiritual and physical health. They are an example of respect for the role that each member of a community holds and teach us never to underestimate each other’s importance. They are symbols of fertility and fidelity and remind us to be respectful and loyal. Geese mate for life.
To find a goose feather is common – perhaps because we need to be reminded frequently that we are all equal.
*You can request a free gift of Canada Goose feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
The Blue Jay is a trickster and mimics other birds in order to distract them from their work. The Jay can be very noisy and attention seeking and even a bully – in groups they can even drive away hawks and owls.
This bird is meant to remind us of our personal power and how it should only be applied in an honourable way. Likewise, should you find a deceased Jay or his feather, it can be a signal that you are coming into a time of humility and honour and that your future movements should involve constructive action.
Finding a Blue Jay feather is common – perhaps that is because we need to be reminded of his lessons frequently.
This bird is the keeper of our territories. The Wild Turkey is committed to raising it’s family for only one community and stays close by in case it is needed. These birds spend their time keeping the ground clean for our health, spreading seeds for our use and is ready and willing to sacrifice itself for our nourishment.
This is a selfless, large and protective bird that reminds us that we could not survive alone – that we need each other, our communities and our families to live happy and productive lives. The Wild Turkey is often visible but indeed hard to catch unless he knows that you need him to survive.
His feathers are dull from afar and he is not thought to be handsome - you will not appreciate his beauty until you can see him up close. This bird serves to remind us not to judge too quickly or by appearance and not to ignore those who appear unremarkable – for they are often the ones that bring us the most joy.
A feather from this bird should remind us to be generous and never judge another without looking very closely.
*You can request a free gift of Wild Turkey tail and wing feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
The tiniest of birds, this fast and happily humming little bird signifies endurance, energy, joyfulness, agility and loyalty. This bird has the ability to fly backwards and sideways; she can hover and stop dead mid flight. Her hum holds a message of contentment even though our work is never done and each year she navigates an arduous voyage, revisiting familiar places along the way.
The Hummer is an example of Creator’s expectations of us to work hard, remain happy, never give up and to move through life with the ability to adapt to change. This little one teaches us to how to hover in the moment appreciating the sweetness and how to always return home no matter how hard the trip may be.
A feather from a Hummingbird is rare and should be taken very seriously as a call to apply yourself and find your strength.
Herons enjoy their own company and are loners – they are graceful, quiet and thoughtful, follow their own rules, take only what is required and resist conformity. They are not flashy in colour and prefer to blend in and observe. They do not rely on others for security or strength, they do not cause a scene, they do not steal or create conflict.
The Heron is said to remind us to be self-reliant, to take only what you need and find balance in relationships. One might also consider that the Heron teaches us moderation and reflection – she demonstrates that easy, small and frequent meals give us all the nourishment that we need and leaves us much time for to stand quietly and gratefully.
A feather from the Heron should bring one peace and thoughtfulness.
*You can request a free gift of Great Blue Heron feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
Like the Wild Turkey, the Grouse and Pheasants are keepers of our territories. Pheasants, like most members of the Grouse family, can make themselves dormant for long periods of time in extremely cold temperatures. Though not known to be fliers, these ground birds have extremely strong breast muscles and when flying is necessary, they will go straight up and can exceed 40mph.
They demonstrate selflessness and give themselves to us for food. They keep our grounds clean and spread seeds.
The feathers of these birds are detailed, colourful and gorgeous. Their beauty reminds us look closely - to take the time to see little things in life and to be grateful.
*You can request a free gift of Pheasant or Grouse feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
Seagulls get a really bad rap, don't they? While this gorgeous bird always lives near water, it is often found in urban settings where human waste is stored - namely garbage cans, dumps, etc. We think of her as dirty; a scavenger.
These are gorgeous birds and are stunningly white and clean, their light grey wings soft and delicate. Their tail feathers are long and white with stunning black tips.
This bird reminds us to always be conscious of just how much food we consume and waste. We are often forgetful of what polluters we are and we are rarely thankful to the creatures that clean up after us.
Have gratitude for these birds, revere them as our helpers and treat them with kindness. In holding their feathers you will learn not to assume they are dirty because of their surroundings but perhaps they're more beautiful because of it.
All living creatures were created with intent and given a purpose. This bird will teach you that your perceptions and realities can be very different. Be conscious not to reflect your opinion on others.
*You can request a free gift of Seagull feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
You may think she is filthy and vile in appearance but she is an amazing scientific specimen and more importantly one of Creator's most beneficial and complicated creations.
This scavenger joins the ranks of the Eagle, the Hawk, the Falcons, Ospreys and Owls in their environmental importance as scavengers. Does it seem wrong to put them in the same classification of those reputable raptors? If it does, you may want to consider how you are looking at those around you. Are you dismissing or giving less credit to those that are not regal and beautiful?
This bird holds crucial importance to the cleanliness of our land and prevention of disease. They are environmental heros. Vultures are equipped with a digestive system that contains special acids that will dissolve anthrax, botulism, and cholera bacteria. By consuming the carcasses of diseased animals, vultures prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases such as rabies and anthrax among animals and humans.
A scavenger - a filthy bird? Just the opposite. As humans we are completely ignorant to the dangers that we have introduced to the environment. The vulture teaches us that everyone is vitally important and that we should not fall victim of societal pressure to judge people based on appearance or environment.
All members of society, no matter demographic factors, unusual actions or physical appearance, teach us perspective and respect.
*You can request a free gift of Vulture feathers when you special order smudge feathers or feather bundles.
Build Your Feather Bundle
There are 3 styles and several colours of Feather Bundles to choose from...
When asking for your feather bundle, you will have your choice of:
- Available feathers.
- "Tobacco" (double hide wrap), "Cedar" (single hide wrap) and "Sage" (smaller, single wrap).
- Hide colour (selection varies based on availability): brown, gold, white, black.
- Tie colour: black, white, brown, beige, navy, yellow, purple, pink.
“Oien’kwa’ón:we | Tobacco” Feather Bundle
“Onen’takwenhténhtshera | Cedar” Feather Bundle
“Átia’ | Sage” Feather Bundle
Smudge Feathers | Talking Feathers | Feather Bundles
There are a few tools out there on the internet that will help you identify your feathers but I find 'The Feather Atlas' from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab most useful. Likewise, you can get loads of photos, information and bird sounds from 'All About Birds' - a magnificent page by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.
If you have found a feather and want to identify it, 'The Feather Atlas' has a GREAT tool! Follow this link to identify your found feather.