Air Canada’s Big Mistake: Removing a First Nations Chief’s Sacred Headdress

Last Updated: June 20, 2024By

Air Canada’s Big Mistake: Removing a First Nations Chief’s Sacred Headdress


Oh boy, Air Canada really messed up this time. They had to apologize to Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak, a well-respected First Nations chief, after they did something pretty shocking. Here’s the scoop.

A Respectful Tradition Disrespected

Cindy was on a domestic flight when something really upsetting happened. Her ceremonial headdress was taken from her, put in a plastic bag, and thrown into the baggage hold. Can you believe that? She was understandably upset and took to Facebook to share her frustration.

She wrote, “Air Canada needs a protocol for First Peoples so that we are not harassed for our sacred items.” Cindy even posted pictures of the staff removing her headdress. She added, “Our headdresses don’t belong in garbage bags by airlines.” She also thanked the kind passengers who stood up for her and tried to help.

Air Canada’s Apology


Air Canada quickly realized their mistake and issued a statement. They said they reached out to Cindy to “better understand and apologize” for what happened. The airline admitted they need to do better when it comes to respecting items and symbols of sacred cultural significance.

The Importance of the Headdress

This wasn’t just any headdress. Cindy received it from the Blackfoot Confederacy of the Piikani Nation in Alberta. It’s a huge honor and symbolizes her leadership and her work on Indigenous child welfare. The headdress is made of eagle feathers that have been blessed to support her leadership in her travels and challenges. So, yeah, it’s a big deal.

Political Outrage

Politicians didn’t hold back their feelings about this incident. David Lametti, Canada’s former justice minister, called it “shameful” and “ridiculous.” He pointed out that bigger pieces of regular luggage are often placed safely in the cabin, so why not this important headdress?

Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, also called the incident “shameful” and urged Air Canada to make sure all their staff know how to handle sacred items properly.

A Call for Change

This whole incident has highlighted the need for better protocols when it comes to handling sacred items belonging to Indigenous people. Cindy’s experience shows that there’s still a lot of work to do in terms of respecting and understanding cultural significance.

Air Canada, it’s time to step up and make sure this doesn’t happen again. Sacred items deserve respect, and it’s clear that more education and awareness are needed.

Let’s hope this apology leads to real change, and that Cindy’s story helps make air travel more respectful for everyone.

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