By Cindy Lowley-Patrick and Eugene Patrick
Traditional regalia is a symbol of who we are. It shows that we are Carrier, what Nation we’re from, and what clan we belong to.
Each regalia is different and has its own specifications that make it unique and show which clan you are from, such as emblems and crests. For my [Cindy’s] regalia, I have a frog emblem to signify my clan, and I have a grizzly bear to signify my father clan. Colour plays a big part too. My regalia is green because I’m frog clan, and Eugene’s colours are red, brown, black, and white to represent the Old Fort Frog clan, as well as his father clans of grouse and mountain house. Each clan is only able to use specific items to make the regalia as well, such as buttons and ribbons.
Regalia is about honour and respect, from when it is made to how you wear it. It’s also about status. When you see someone wearing regalia, right away you know that those individuals must be high-ranking hereditary chiefs. Not every hereditary chief has regalia – it’s a lot of work to get, and there’s steps involved.
Before you get your regalia, you first have to get your hereditary chief name. After that it is up to your clan to decide when you are ready for your regalia. They observe how you behave in the Bah’lats and in the community before they tell you that you’re ready.
Once you’re ready, you hire your father clan to make your regalia. For me [Cindy], the Grizzly Bear and Black Bear clans made my regalia. Mine took about a year, as it’s all made by hand. The ts’ah (“head dress”) especially can take a long time. Mary Williams and Cheyenne Crouse Dennis were the ladies who made my regalia. Once it’s ready, you pay them for their hard work.
When the regalia is finished, your clan shows it around at a Bah’lats before you wear it. After you put it on for the first time, your Elders show you around. It was aunty Annette Casimir and my uncle Leon Taylor that walked me around to show it off, and Grizzly Bear leader Damien Pierre talked about me to the other clans so they knew who I was. They were showing us off and introducing me with my regalia. When Eugene got his regalia, it was Grouse Clan leader, Herbert William, who told the other clans.
The way you put on the regalia and fold it and put it away is important too. You have to do it with a lot of respect. They are powerful pieces. When we take off our regalia, we do it with a lot of respect and care.
Our Elders are with us throughout the entire process of getting our regalia. Late Connie Abraham, she talked to me about my nehldic (“blanket”) and she said “you always be good to it. It’s got lots of power, and you look after it.” She gave me that woman to woman talk. For Eugene, it was late Willie Williams who talked him through the process.
It just goes to show that no matter how old you are, your Elders always have something to teach you, like what it means to be a hereditary chief or what your regalia means. You can never stop learning in life.
Regalia is a tradition that’s still going strong today. I just got mine done a few years ago. We wear it in Bah’lats, in ceremonies, and at the raising of headstones. We wear the regalia and honour the other three clans by dancing for them. It’s about honour and respect, our lineage, family, and our name.
When we see ourselves in our regalia in photos, we really come to appreciate where we are in life. When I was young, I didn’t think I would become a hereditary chief. It’s a huge role and undertaking. Now when I look back, I can’t believe that we’re both hereditary chiefs, but I’m so proud. Our work is not for nothing and who we are in community, family, and at work is all equally important.
I want our kids to see a photo of us and think good things about us. I think they’re really going to appreciate us more as parents knowing that we’re being recognized and acknowledged. It makes me think of how far we’ve come, and we are so honoured.
Cindy and Eugene are both Community Engagement Facilitators with the CSFS Jurisdiction team.
Last modified: Monday 19-Dec-22 15:19:48 PST