some Americans, practicing their religion requires a federal permit
and a long wait for a controlled substance eagle parts.
National Eagle Repository, Building 128 at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal,
is a one-of-a-kind religious-supply house that processes about 2,000
dead golden and bald eagles a year for American Indian rituals.
the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and amendments,
an eagle may not be taken or killed not even a loose feather
may be picked up. Only dead eagles can be salvaged and only
by the federal government.
bald and golden eagles at the northeast Denver repository have been
found dead in the wild, or they come from zoos or licensed rehabilitators.
majority are in bad condition," said supervisor Bernadette
Atencio. "These birds come in from all over the country. These
birds go out to all over the country."
two-person staff fills orders for the feathers, heads, talons and
whole eagles used by many of the 500 federally recognized American
6,000 orders are waiting to be filled at the repository, Atencio
is a lot of red tape for Native Americans to practice their religion
using eagles. It is a very big hindrance," said Myron Pourier,
a cultural-affairs official with the South Dakota Oglala Sioux tribe,
for the limited supply of eagles is high, especially among Plains,
Navajo and Pueblo Indians.
repository takes a bad rap because of the time it takes to fill
an order," Atencio said. "A lot of people don't realize
how much work we do to fill an order."
American Indian who requests a whole bird can wait up to four years
after getting a permit. The wait for 10 loose, high- quality feathers
is typically six months.
as an elder brother
eagle's role varies from tribe to tribe, but for the Sioux and many
others, Pourier said, the eagle is a relative, an older brother,
and a direct link to ancestors and to the Creator.
eagle is used in healing and in strengthening ceremonies for warriors,
including soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Indians have received an eagle, they give it a proper blessing
a show of gratitude for its gifts before sending it on to
the spirit world, Pourier said.
an Indian, who must be 18 or older and enrolled in a federally recognized
tribe, can order an eagle or eagle parts, he or she must obtain
a permit from their state of residence's Migratory Bird Permit Office.
The Colorado office is in Lakewood.
a permit, which is good for a lifetime, can take months or even
in Indian Country agrees the whole process needs to be streamlined,"
said Don Ragona, an attorney with the Boulder-based Native American
Rights Fund. "It's an outrageously long wait."
the national repository, the small staff must work within the law
and a small budget.
biggest demand is for immature golden-eagle feathers, which are
white with black tips.
repository does not examine the birds it receives for a cause of
death. If the West Nile virus is suspected, the bird is not sent
to the repository. The staff does not remove maggots or otherwise
clean the birds. The recipients do that.
two specialists who work in the eagle program lay the birds out
on stainless-steel tables and examine them from head to claw for
usable parts. Whole wings and tails may be used in fans. Tiny ulna
bones are sometimes used as whistles. Small pinfeathers might be
used on Hopi kachina figures or placed in medicine pouches.
birds shipped a week
repository cuts and mixes parts from different birds but does not
mix species. Workers also try to group together parts from birds
of a similar age. They fill orders on a first-come, first-served
basis and ship once a week.
make 100 to 150 shipments of loose feathers a week. They might ship
30 whole eagles a week.
piece work, really," Atencio said. "Some just want the
tails. Some just want the wings. A lot of people are holding out
for the perfect whole bird. Perfect is hard to come by."
the national symbol, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet, processed
something like poultry is unsettling for some. The clinical approach
to handling the birds disturbs many American Indian applicants.
hear that a lot," Atencio said. "They will ask us if we're
Native American. They feel Native Americans should be doing this
work here. But anybody can do this job. We have our protocol. Our
staff is sensitive."
repository, Atencio said, works with all types of American Indians,
from traditionalists, whose primary concerns might be with blessing
and ceremonial burial of the eagle, to modern tribal members, whose
concerns are often about the aesthetics of the regalia for dances.
birds mean a lot to them," Atencio said of the applicants.
"You know that just by talking to them on the phone. They are
sincere and humble about what they're asking for."
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 says dead eagles and
their parts may only be removed from nature by U.S. Fish and Wildlife
officers or by cooperating state game officials.
one not even American Indians can sell or barter any
part or anything made from eagle parts. They can make a gift of
it, or bequeath it upon death, but only to other American Indians.
of the act can result in a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison,
yet there is a thriving black market. If you find a dead bald or
golden eagle, do not touch it; report it to a federal or state game