Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Declares Headdress Confiscation Inexcusable

April 26, 2024

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba

AMC Communications

Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – Grand Chief Cathy Merrick and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) express an urgent need for comprehensive cultural sensitivity training and awareness within the airline industry after Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Cindy Woodhouse-Nepinak’s headdress was confiscated on an Air Canada flight this week.

“Systemic discrimination reveals itself in situations like this,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, “when our sacred items are treated as if they’re just objects. What happened to National Chief Woodhouse-Nepinak is a shameful demonstration of how misinformed Canadians are about First Nations’ sacred cultural items and traditions.”

National Chief Woodhouse-Nepinak was honoured with the headdress by Elder Leonard Weasel Traveller and Chief Troy Knowlton of the Piikani Nation and Blackfoot Confederacy in Alberta on Treaty Seven Territory during a headdress transfer in January of this year.

“In our culture,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick continued, “the transfer of the headdress stands as one of the highest honours within First Nations traditions in acknowledging our Leadership. It is important that people understand the honour of receiving such a gift and what that means – whether they are First Nations or not – and that they respect our ways as a people.”

First Nations-led cultural sensitivity training and awareness is essential for fostering understanding and respect. However, Grand Chief Merrick also underscores the crucial need for accountability, urging individuals and industries to take ownership of the education of their employees at every level.

“There are no excuses left. We’re in 2024, where information is at our fingertips—anyone can Google, visit a library, or pick up a book. First Nations are the original people of Turtle Island, and it’s time that Canadians and industry acknowledge their complicity in perpetuating systemic racism and colonial violence.”

Grand Chief Merrick says the AMC is open to working with all airlines to administer cultural training and awareness. Additionally, she hopes this situation serves as a wake-up call to the industry to prioritize cultural competence and sensitivity in their operations. It’s essential for companies to recognize and respect the diverse backgrounds and needs of their customers, especially in sectors like air travel, where encounters between cultures are frequent.

For more information, please contact:

Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba with a total of more than 172,000 First Nations citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anisininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) peoples.