Posts Tagged ‘bald eagle’

“…They are critical and essential to our survival.”

But the wait is long for Natives seeking bald and golden eagle feathers.

There’s only one way to get them, through the National Eagle Repository.

An eagle carcass is processed at the National Eagle Repository in Denver. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Billings Gazette reporter Lorna Thackeray describes the process and the frustrations faced by many in her story on the long waits for eagle feathers.

    The repository, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, receives about 2,400 eagle carcasses a year, said Dennis Wiist, a wildlife specialist there.

    The list of American Indians waiting for an eagle is twice that long.

    Eagles can’t be killed legally and their parts can’t be sold, transported, traded, imported or exported. Even possession of post-Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act eagle parts requires a permit. Eagle parts can be handed down through families or given to other Native Americans for religious purposes. They can’t be given to a non-Indian.

    “It’s an awkward situation,” said Conrad Fisher, historic preservation officer for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. “Eagle feathers have been used for thousands of years by Native Americans. They probably go back to the genesis.

    . . .

    The wait depends on whether the applicant wants a whole eagle, feathers or other parts, Wiist said. Those seeking miscellaneous feathers usually get them within three months, he said. Those seeking a higher quality of loose feathers may have to wait six months.

In other eagle news, here’s an NPR story from the Wind River Reservation, where the tribe was approved to hunt two bald eagles.

Jenna Cederberg

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Even sincere religious practices are not an excuse for a non-Native tribal member to possess bald eagle feathers, the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit ruled on Tuesday, the Denver Post reports.

The ruling overturned a U.S. District Court decision holding that freedom of religion and the practice of authentic Native religious ceremonies was enough to justify the ownership of the feathers by non-Tribal members.

    The ruling is foremost a victory for the U.S. government’s efforts to protect eagles, but it’s also a positive result for Indian tribes, said Richard Guest of the Native American Rights Fund.

    The case required the court, “to navigate the dangerous terrain at the intersection of the federal government’s obligations … to refrain from imposing burdens on the individual’s practice of religion and, on the other (hand), to protect key aspects of our natural heritage and preserve the culture of Native American tribes,” the ruling said.

    Samuel Ray Wilgus, a non-Indian resident of Utah, was arrested in June 1998 for possessing 141 feathers of bald and golden eagles.

    The Eagle Act of 1940 (amended in 1962) bans the possession of eagle feathers or parts except for certain uses, including scientific studies and “the religious purposes of Indian tribes.”

Tribal members must go through an application process to obtain and own bald eagle feathers.

Wilgus’ used the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 as his main defense. The appeals court found that “one can reliably estimate how many non—Indian adherents of Native American religions are out there or how many would apply for the limited supply of repository feathers,,” the Post reported. This could jeopardize the Native populations access to the feathers.

Jenna Cederberg

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