At first he thought it was a goose.
New Nelson resident Jordan Clark was taking in the majestic Kootenay surroundings, beach-sitting at Taghum, when he spotted a dark shape flapping at water level in the distance. It was being swept downriver while an osprey circled and swooped.
“I saw his white head, and it looked like he was submerged in the water while this osprey was swooping and that’s when I knew it was really in trouble,” Clark, who belongs to the Shuswap Nation, told the Star.
“I ran up and I was laying across the train bridge, looking down at him. I thought they were in a fight. He was looking up at me and I was tempted to jump in, but I’m not the best swimmer so I continued running down the tracks.”
He spotted a kayak onshore, and approached a nearby homeowner to see if he could borrow it.
“I told him this eagle’s flowing down the main stream of the river and doesn’t seem to be making any attempts to get back in the air. He told me I could use his kayak to rescue it.”
Once Clark approached the eagle, he noticed that it was favouring one side and seemed incapable of pulling its wings above the surface. He followed it for a time, observing.
“The first time I reached for him, he pulled away. But the second time he seemed so relaxed, and so tired. He put his wing up on the side of the kayak and he stayed there, breathing.”
He eventually brought it to shore and delivered it to local authorities. Clark was deeply moved by his encounter with the eagle, who was ultimately named Sergeant after conservation officer Cynthia Mann. Once Sergeant was successfully rehabilitated, it was released back into the area around Taghum Beach—an event Clark was hoping to be present for.
Unfortunately, due to a communication snafu, he couldn’t be there.
“For my people, the eagle is a sacred bird. I have a young daughter at home, a six-month-old daughter, Aqua, and I was anticipating being there for the release with my family, to show them how to honour everything about its flight and its life.”
But since he couldn’t be there, he’s pleased that Sergeant left behind a 12-inch feather that’s now in his possession.
“First of all I’m going to take the feather home and smudge it and bless it. I will honour it as I’ve been taught to honour objects, and I’ll give it clean energy. I'm a visionary with a connection to nature—I've previously had a connection with a cougar—and this was a powerful experience for me."
One story passed down from his people involves a visionary who was meditating on the cougar when an eagle feather landed in his lap. He said the two animals have a mystical link.
“It shows the connection between the eagle and cougar. One doesn’t want to be seen, while the other one sees everything. And often eagles will feed off things that were killed by the cougar.
“There’s a strong connection there and it’s been an honour to come to understand that.”
The other lesson he’s learning: we’re all connected—the cougar helps the eagle, the eagle helps him, he helps the eagle.
“It’s not exactly helping, though. It’s sharing these paths. There are many paths we’re on but we can all come to points in time when we share, and it’s not really helping, it’s sharing our knowledge and awareness.”