Religious leader of non-recognized tribe reclaims eagle feathers

Robert Soto blesses eagle feathers that were returned to him after being seized by federal agents. Photo from Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

The religious leader of a non-federally recognized tribe in Texas has reclaimed eagle feathers that had been seized by federal agents.

Robert Soto, a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe, was at a powwow when his regalia was seized in March 2006. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the action was illegal because the Interior Department failed to show why Indians who are from non-recognized tribes can't possess eagle feathers as part of their religious practices.

“The government has about a million better things to do with taxpayer money than send undercover agents to raid Native American powwows and confiscate their eagle feathers,” Luke Goodrich, the deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which defended Soto's rights, said in a press release.

YouTube: Government infiltrates native pow wow, takes eagle feathers

Despite winning a ruling from the 5th Circuit, Goodrich said the government continues to threaten Soto and fellow tribal members. The Becket Fund plans to seek an injunction to prevent future seizures.

“The government allows hundreds of eagles, if not thousands, to be killed every year for non-religious reasons. Yet it won’t allow these Native Americans to possess even a single feather.” said Goodrich. “It’s time to let Native Americans practice their faith; we’re not living in the 1800s anymore.”

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Interior.

Get the Story:
U.S. Returns Eagle Feathers to Lipan Apache Religious Leader After Court Fight (Indian Country Today 3/10)

5th Circuit Decision:
McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Salazar (August 20, 2014

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Non-recognized tribe in Texas hails ruling in eagle feather case (8/26)

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