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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Comanche Agency Saves Sacred Birds, Way Of Life
by Jennifer Griswold - The Oklahoman

The Organization's Name, Sia, Means 'Feather'

CYRIL — Bill Voelker has spent his life working with eagles and other birds important to his people.

A member of the Comanche Nation, Voelker learned about the importance of eagles and their feathers in American Indian culture and rituals from his father, mother and grandmother.

He is now spreading the message of conservation and preservation around the world through Sia, a nonprofit organization he founded 10 years ago.

Sia means "feather" in Comanche. The agency is a tribal program of the Comanche Nation, but it is responsible for its own funding.

The eagle and its feathers are an integral part of the Comanche way of life, Voelker said.

Eagles are considered a living link to the Almighty, and the birds and their feathers are still used for ceremonies, prayers and traditional clothing the same way they were hundreds of years ago.

Voelker has spent more than 30 years perfecting artificial insemination techniques in birds to help ensure eagles' survival. His work has produced more than 300 bald and golden eagles that have been released back into the wild.

The agency also works with other birds that are important in Indian culture, like hawks, vultures, owls and crows.

Longtime friend and co-founder Troy, who goes by only one name, has worked with Voelker for many years. Sia has been a labor of love, he said. "We're doing a lot here, and it's just the two of us."

The work they're doing is important because it's not only about saving wildlife, but also preserving a way of life.

"We may be in a little town, but we're doing big work," Troy said.

Sia headquarters was built on land in Cyril that was originally allotted to Comanche tribal members.

The complex includes several specialized enclosures to house more than a dozen species of birds kept at the facility.

The primary focus is eagles.

Sia also has a state-of-the-art vault used to preserve feathered Indian artifacts.

"Feathers can last thousands of years, but in no time bug damage can destroy them," Voelker said. A freezing method is used to protect the feathered items and make sure bugs don't damage them.

The agency collects the feathers its birds molt naturally and distributes them for tribal purposes. The organization holds federal permits that allow them to house and breed the birds and distribute the feathers.

Sia receives more than 100 requests for feathers from tribal members each year.

Voelker recently got a call from a tribal member who had a feather stolen from a ceremonial hat. He was able to replace it the same day because one of the eagles under his care had shed a feather that day.

Some people who have gone through government agencies may wait years for their feather requests to be filled, he said. "We can supply the needs much quicker."

Sia also has language classes, provides education tours, and houses many historical documents and native artifacts of the Comanche Nation.

The agency works with tribes, governments and educational institutions around the world, sharing knowledge and skills to help preserve the native birds important to other cultures. The organization is in the middle of an $800,000 fundraising campaign to build another bird housing facility on 50 acres south of Cyril.

For more information on Sia, go to

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