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EMBASSY OF TRIBAL NATIONS, WASHINGTON DC On Friday October 12 the Department of Justice announced a department-wide, internal policy regarding the enforcement of laws that affect the ability of members of federally recognized Indian tribes to possess or use eagle feathers. The new policy is the result of numerous consultations with tribal leaders, tribal nations, and individuals. The policy covers all federally protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts.
After decades of confusion, a new clarifying policy
In response the National Congress of American Indians released the following statement acknowledging the important step this policy represents:
"Eagle feathers are of great spiritual and cultural significance to many tribal nations and their citizens, and we view the Administration's new policy as a positive step toward addressing the use and possession of these sacred items. We are hopeful that this policy will protect the rights of all Native peoples to practice their religion without fear of interference by federal officials,"
said Robert Holden, Deputy Director of the National Congress of the American Indian, the nation's oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native advocacy organization.
"After decades of confusion, this new policy clarifies the position of the federal government in a manner that strikes a more equitable balance between the rights of Native American practitioners and the preservation of eagles."
The National Congress of American Indians has convened Eagle Feathers Work Group meetings with DOJ officials numerous times during the policy drafting stages, and in the coming weeks, the work group will take a thorough look at the new Department of Justice policy and its implications.
"In general, we anticipate this policy will be well received by the work group and Indian country in general. It may well resolve some decades-old concerns and everyone who has played a role in the process both on the tribal side and the federal side should be commended for their efforts. We encourage continued review of the policy and urge the federal government to be very sensitive to religious freedom concerns when considering enforcement,"
The Department of Justice policy provides that, consistent with the Department of Justice's traditional exercise of its discretion, a member of a federally recognized tribe will not be subjected to federal prosecution for certain types of conduct. The Department will continue to prosecute tribal members and non-members alike for violating federal laws that prohibit the killing of eagles and other migratory birds or the buying or selling of the feathers or other parts of such birds. The new policy makes clear that the Department of Justice's priority is on large-scale commercial cases and incidents of illegal poaching, not the every-day use and possession of eagle parts and feathers by tribal members.
posted October 16, 2012 6:00 am edt