Opinion

Opinion: DOJ should make changes to policy on eagle feathers





Attorney Halie Geller discusses the Department of Justice policy on eagle feathers:
Native Americans have been using eagle feathers and other parts in their religious and ceremonial practices since “time immemorial.” However, as the federal government passed laws and regulations and entered into treaties to protect the eagle and migratory bird populations, Native Americans have been left with few legal options to obtain these sacred objects: File an application through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) National Eagle Repository or be given the needed feather or part by a fellow tribal member.

Adding to these challenges has been confusion within the tribal community about FWS’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) positions regarding the prosecution of tribal members under wildlife laws. On October 12, 2012, the DOJ issued a memorandum clarifying the rights of members of federally recognized tribes to possess, carry, use, and wear protected bird feathers, including eagle feathers. While the memo was a welcome clarification of DOJ policy, it did not provide the complete relief the tribal community needed. Specifically, the DOJ reiterated its support for the distribution of feathers and parts through the National Eagle Repository rather than provide for increased tribal involvement in distribution. Additionally, it excluded non-federally recognized tribes and individuals from the exemptions from wildlife laws provided to members of federally recognized tribes.

Get the Story:
Halie Geller: Feather Dust-up: Why the DOJ Feather Policy Must Change (Indian Country Today 7/13)

Relevant Documents:
Memorandum: Possession or Use of the Feathers or Other Parts of Federally Protected Birds for Tribal Cultural and Religious Purposes (October 12, 2012)

Related Stories:
Nonrecognized tribe in Texas sues over seizure of eagle feathers (03/13)
Non-recognized tribes excluded from DOJ eagle feather policy (2/20)
Justice Department announces policy on use of eagle feathers (10/12)