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WASHINGTON The first ever policy pertaining to the use of eagle feathers was released by the US Department of Justice on Friday.
Policy Applies to Members of Federally Recognized Tribes
US Attorney Eric Holder signed the new policy after extensive consultation with American Indian tribal leaders and tribal groups. The policy covers all federally protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts.
The policy applies to members of federally recognized Indian Tribes.
American Indians have long used eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes, including the use of eagle feathers as part of regalia.
“The Justice Department's policy balances the needs of the federally recognized tribes and their members to be able to obtain, possess and use eagle feathers for their religious and cultural practices with the need to protect and preserve these magnificent birds,”
said Del Laverdure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.
“Its' reasoned approach reflects a greater understanding and respect for cultural beliefs and spiritual practices of Indian people while also providing much needed clarity for those responsible for enforcing federal migratory bird protection laws.”
"This policy will help ensure a consistent and uniform approach across the nation to protecting and preserving eagles, and to honoring their cultural and spiritual significance to American Indians,"
said Attorney General Holder.
"The Department of Justice is committed to striking the right balance in enforcing our nationâ€™' wildlife laws by respecting the cultural and religious practices of federally recognized Indian tribes with whom the United States shares a unique government to government relationship."
Tribal members do not have to fear prosecution
for possessing eagle feathers
“This policy helps to clarify how federal law enforcement goes about protecting these special birds and also should reassure federally recognized tribal members that they do not have to fear prosecution for possessing or using eagle feathers for their religious and cultural purposes,”
said Brendan V. Johnson, US Attorney for the District of South Dakota and the Chairman of the Native American Issues Subcommittee of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee.
Federal wildlife laws such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act generally criminalize the killing of eagles and other migratory birds and the possession or commercialization of the feathers and other parts of such birds. These important laws are enforced by the Department of Justice and the Department of the Interior and help ensure that eagle and other bird populations remain healthy and sustainable.
The department is issuing this policy to address the concerns of tribal members who are unsure of how they may be affected by federal wildlife law enforcement efforts, and because of a concern that this uncertainty may hinder or inhibit tribal religious and cultural practices. The department first announced it was considering formalizing a policy on eagle feathers in October 2011 and sought tribal input at that time. The department held formal consultations with tribal leaders in June, July and August of this year.
"From time immemorial, many Native Americans have viewed eagle feathers and other bird parts as sacred elements of their religious and cultural traditions,"
said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
"The Department of Justice has taken a major step forward by establishing a consistent and transparent policy to guide federal enforcement of the nation's wildlife laws in a manner that respects the cultural and religious practices of federally recognized Indian tribes and their members."
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posted October 15, 2012 8:59 am edt