ARCHIVED - Master Warrant Officer Stan Mercredi - A proud carrier of Aboriginal tradition

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Article / May 24, 2016 / Project number: 16-0066

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Petawawa, Ontario — Master Warrant Officer Stanley Mercredi maintains a sacred privilege among his peers: As a an appointed carrier for the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) Eagle Staff, he proudly represents Aboriginal customs and traditions on behalf of the  Defence Team community in events across Canada. MWO Mercredi will be parading the Staff in Ottawa during Aboriginal Awareness Week (May 24 to 27), a nationwide celebration of Aboriginal culture within the Canadian public service, and at the100th anniversary commemoration ceremonies of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel in France this July.

The tradition of the Eagle Staff has been passed down from generation to generation. In Aboriginal cultures, the Eagle Staff represents various meanings, spiritual entities, nations, clans, languages, medicines and healing. From a non-Aboriginal perspective, the Staff can be compared to a national flag: it represents people, states, governments, regiments and battle honours. Thus, it is an honoured and sacred symbol. The DND/CAF Eagle Staff was created in 2002.

With almost 34 years in the CAF as a weapons technician under his belt, MWO Mercredi, of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, currently serves as Equipment Technical Quartermaster Sergeant with the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery in Petawawa, Ontario.

Below is a profile of MWO Mercredi, highlighting his pride in his Aboriginal heritage and his role as Eagle Staff Carrier.

Grandparents were an inspiration to join the CAF

MWO Mercredi was born in Inuvik and grew up in Fort Smith, both in the Northwest Territories. Growing up in a small community where jobs were scarce and few, he quickly realized that leaving the community would help him expand his horizons. He joined the military thanks in part to the efforts of an outstanding recruiter working as part of Project Native, an early CAF initiative to recruit Aboriginal people in the North.

However, MWO Mercredi’s main inspirations were his grandfather, a trapper and tracker who worked with the RCMP when it was still known as the Northwest Mounted Police; his grandmother, whom he revered as an Elder and mentor; as well as his father, who worked with the territorial government and Corrections Canada. They were all individuals who were proud of how they gave to the community. So a stable job in the military was something MWO Mercredi saw that he could be proud of as well. One morning in 1982, he told his grandmother that he was going out for coffee; three hours later, he returned to tell her that he had joined the CAF.

Connecting to pride in Aboriginal heritage

Throughout his career, MWO Mercredi has always valued his connection to his roots, thanks to his grandmother, who taught him to think about ways to express his pride in his heritage whenever he could. He said, “I always had a go-to place within myself that I knew, wherever I go, I still have my community in my heart.” With the distinct features of the North in mind, he reminds himself to “look beyond the treeline” and continue to expand his horizons.

In 2006, MWO Mercredi met Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class (Retired) Debbie Eisan, one of the visionaries of the DND/CAF Eagle Staff. He credits her mentorship as the spark that inspired him to openly express his Aboriginal heritage as a CAF member and get involved in Aboriginal events and initiatives in the defence community. “Debbie’s dedication to the cause was like hook, line, sinker; she had me,” he said.  

Becoming a DND/CAF Eagle Staff Carrier

From 2011 to 2012, MWO Mercredi served as National Co-Chair for the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, where he and other committee members, such as CPO 2 (Ret’d) Eisan, helped bring forward Aboriginal issues and supported the military chain of command through advice and cultural expertise.

While serving as National Co-Chair, MWO Mercredi first glimpsed the Eagle Staff, and was immediately awestruck. When CPO 2 (Ret’d) Eisan approached him about becoming a carrier, he immediately agreed. Through ceremonial teachings involved in the initiation process, he learned of the Staff’s deeper importance and the qualities needed of its carrier, including maintaining an open, clear heart and positive intentions. To this day, MWO Mercredi says he remains humbled that he is tasked with caring for a symbol of such profound meaning. “It’s something that I care so much about and believe in,” he said.

In March, MWO Mercredi was privileged to parade the Eagle Staff during the Petawawa Cultural and Diversity Festival at 4th Canadian Division Support Base Petawawa, and will be travelling with it to Ottawa for Aboriginal Awareness Week in May.

Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse, Commander of the Canadian Army and Defence Champion for Aboriginal Peoples, praises the Staff’s return. “I am excited to hear that once again, the DND/CAF Eagle Staff is coming to Ottawa. Last year, I had the great privilege of receiving the Staff during the 20th anniversary of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group ceremony and it was an extraordinary experience to share in the practice of this sacred tradition. The Eagle Staff is a treasured symbol of unity that belongs to all of us in the Defence family,” he said.  

MWO Mercredi fondly remembers the event at the National Aboriginal War Memorial in Ottawa in 2015. “It was an honor to be amongst people that believe in our culture, our traditions, our values, and how much we believe in the Defence community,” he said of the experience. “It was a proud moment to have this opportunity.

Where to next?

The Eagle Staff’s travels have only begun. This July, it will make its longest journey yet: overseas, to France. The Staff will be travelling to the site of the battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel to honor the 100th anniversary of the battles and the contributions and sacrifices made by thousands of Aboriginal soldiers during the World Wars. MWO Mercredi is one of two people selected to accompany and parade the Eagle Staff at the event.

For him, the trip is the ultimate fulfilment of his personal “bucket list.” He remarked, “One of those things that I wanted to do was to represent the Aboriginal people and be proud but humble at the same time that I have the opportunity to do this.

By Natalie Flynn and Bryan Mackay, Army Public Affairs

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