June 21, 2019

Star quilt and eagle feather remind Whitney Ogle of her roots

Indigenous support adviser shares the story of her journey to UCalgary
When Whitney Ogle graduated with her first post-secondary degree, her family honoured her with this star quilt after it had been blessed and smudged.

When Whitney Ogle graduated, her family honoured her with this star quilt after it had been blessed.

Nathan Luit, University of Calgary

In the Lakota Nation, the wambli (eagle) feather and the star quilt are two of the highest honours one can receive. It was these two gifts with which Whitney Ogle was honoured as she graduated from her first post-secondary degree. Ogle proudly wore the star quilt, hand-stitched by her aunties and grandmothers, draped across her shoulders as she accepted her diploma — the first in her family to do so.

“Being the first person to graduate, I was honoured with a star quilt and a wambli feather. That was when I started my first journey of decolonizing myself and connecting back to my innate spirit,” she says.

“The star quilt is a representation for Lakota people, as we believe we are the star nation. Our ancestors and Elders, the Old Ones, had known before science and our new technology that we are water babies — that we are created of water. The crystallized structure of water in its molecular form is a six-point star,” Ogle explains.

“We understand with the six points, plus two points for our direct entry here to Mother Earth and our exit to the spirit world of immortality.” 

The longer the journey, the greater the rewards

Ogle is of Lakota-Ukrainian-English descent, and grew up in the rolling hills of southern Saskatchewan in Treaty Four territory. She was raised on a farm between Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation and the community of Assiniboine. Since beginning her educational journey in 2007, Ogle has come to realize her path is greater than herself.

“I’ve come to realize that [my journey] was bigger than me,” she says. “It was bigger than my family. It was for my community. It was for my nation. It was for the sustainment of those who are still to come, our little ones, the next generation.”

Ogle — or Wiâ Wâsté, which means Good Woman in Lakota, a name gifted to her by her great-grandmother Elizabeth Holy Breath — is a social worker and the first Indigenous support adviser with Student Wellness Services. As a guest on Treaty Seven territory for the last 15 years, she provides mental health and wellness support to students at UCalgary.

“My role here is supporting all students in accessing holistic supports and decolonizing our mental health supports to incorporate Indigenous ways of knowing,” she says.

UCalgary students can access the services of Whitney Ogle and other student support advisers by calling 403-210-9355 or visiting the website.

June is National Indigenous History Month and National Indigenous Peoples Day is on June 21. Learn more about how UCalgary is Indigenizing ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being through ii’ taa’poh’to’p, our Indigenous Strategy.

Do you have a project in mind to help the vision of ii’ taa’poh’to’p? Students, faculty and staff can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 to Indigenize and decolonize our campus. Deadline is June 30.

Two great Lakota honours: A star quilt and an eagle feather