An eagle feather from Chilliwack flew all the way to the International Space Station with Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques.
Believed to be the second eagle feather in space, it will be a source of inspiration for all soon from the Sto:lo Service Agency in Chilliwack, now that it has touched back down to Earth.
The story starts with the At Home in Space Program, where some UBC researchers were studying ways to reduce stress on astronauts, and help them adapt to the isolating effects of working on the space station. One of the psychology researchers, Peter Suedfeld, has close familial ties to Michael Suedfeld, who does research and communications for Sto:lo Service Agency (SSA).
“My father offered us the chance to send something of note into space with David Saint-Jacques,” Michael Suedfeld recounted, explaining how the item from Sto:lo territory ended up hurtling through in space.
Suedfeld sought out SSA colleague, Kelowa Edel, Sto:lo Health Director, to come up with a suitable suggestion.
Edel said she glanced over at a bookshelf where she kept an eagle feather.
It was perfect.
“It’s light. It’s significant. It’s our connection to creator,” Edel said, adding that the eagle is known across Turtle Island as the “messenger.”
Edel, who is not Sto:lo but of Ojibway ancestry, said the eagle feather was gifted to her at one point for her work with Sto:lo people.
“We want to really encourage our people,” Edel said. “You really have to reach for the stars. If you really want something, you can reach higher and higher.”
It’s just like the feather’s trajectory to the space station.
“The feather went up, and the feather came back down to earth,” Edel said.
As a keepsake, Saint-Jacques snapped a photo of the two-toned eagle feather floating weightlessly in space against the backdrop of Earth, through the cupola window portal on the space station.
“That was a really nice gesture on the part of Saint-Jacques,” Suedfeld said about the picture.
Suedfeld said he’d been told by Sto:lo elders, that “when the eagle reaches the moon, true reconciliation can begin,” and his understanding is that this is the first ever eagle feather on the ISS.
So for anyone reading this story, or seeing the small feather, his wish is that they take “hope and inspiration” from it.
And there’s an official certificate of authenticity that came with a note that reads: “It is with great pleasure that we are returning to you this item which flew aboard the International Space Station during David Saint-Jacques’ Mission.”
The feather is set to be mounted in a special frame, and will be eventually on display in Chilliwack, along with the space station mission patch, and space agency certificate, after a small ceremony is held in the new year.
“Space exploration enriches humanity with new perspectives on ourselves and the work,” Saint-Jacques wrote about his mission.
The astronaut was aboard the ISS from Dec. 3, 2018 to June 24, 2019.
“I thank the At Home in Space study team for symbolically taking part in the adventure through this feather that was on board with me.”