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eaglecircle.org • Виж темата - Eagle feathers

Eagle feathers

С други думи "Клюкарник"

Модератор: Black Wolf

Eagle feathers

Мнениеот White Horse » Пет Окт 04, 2013 2:26 pm

INDIO, Calif. -- At an American-Indian dance competition here last month, Travis "Thunder" Lovett bobbed his head, hopped on one foot while spinning and froze suddenly as the last drumbeat stopped. On top of his headdress, two eagle feathers swayed. The perfectly executed finish earned him first prize and $1,000.

It's hard to acquire eagle feathers legally these days, and Mr. Lovett, 21 years old and one-eighth Cherokee, was guarded about their source. "I'm not supposed to tell anybody how I get them," he said. In a later interview, Mr. Lovett said he misspoke. His feathers were "handed down from a friend" who might have gotten them from the government's official repository of eagle parts and feathers.

Powwows, festivals where mostly Native Americans gather to socialize and compete, have surged in popularity. In turn, according to wildlife law-enforcement officials, they've fueled a black market in eagle parts used to decorate dancers' outfits. Government and unofficial estimates suggest several thousand protected bald and golden eagles in the U.S. and British Columbia are killed every year, mainly by poachers eager to profit from the phenomenon.

"Powwows are the biggest killer of eagles," says Eddie Benally, a Navajo conservation officer at the tribe's 17-million-acre reservation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, who assists U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents in nabbing eagle shooters and traders. Mr. Benally says eagle traders, who previously sold only individual feathers at powwows, today sell whole wings and tails.

The term "powwow" once referred to a spiritual leader or spiritual activity. It was later co-opted by nonnative settlers to describe any type of Indian gathering. The modern powwow event derives from the ceremonies of Ponca and Omaha tribes of the Great Plains, says Dennis W. Zotigh of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian.

There have been almost 1,000 powwows this year, according to Paul Gowder, who keeps a calendar on his Web site, PowWows.com. His day job is to manage the Web site of South Carolina's attorney general. One of the nation's largest powwows, Gathering of Nations, in Albuquerque, N.M., attracted 3,000 dancers this year, up from 2,000 a decade ago.

Indian-owned casinos, which sponsor many of the events, are a big reason for the rising numbers. Prizes there have climbed to as high as $3,000 for first place in each dance category, leading some Indian families to try earning a living by traveling from competition to competition, says Mr. Zotigh.

Many dances require eagle feathers for headdresses or fans, and competitors are judged on the quality of their outfits, among other things. The men's "northern traditional" dance, for example, requires a winglike contraption consisting of up to two eagles' worth of feathers. Young golden eagles, whose tails are made up of white feathers with black tips, are the most sought after for dancing outfits, called regalias.

Regalia feathers are easily damaged. "You need three of everything," says Buckshot Knight, a 58-year-old Lakota tribe member from Eagle Butte, S.D.

The bald eagle was adopted by Congress as a national symbol in 1782 and became federally protected in 1940. Protection for golden eagles followed 22 years later. Today, with some very rare exceptions, it's illegal to kill eagles or sell eagle parts in the U.S. Non-Native Americans can't even possess eagle parts obtained after the birds became protected, unless they have a permit for educational or scientific use.

Because eagles are important to American-Indian culture -- many tribes see them as a messenger between humans and God -- card-carrying members of federally recognized tribes can possess eagle parts. There are only a few ways to get hold of new eagle parts. Native Americans can apply for a seldom-granted permit to kill a bird for religious use. They can receive them as gifts or through inheritance. And they can make requests to a Denver-based repository, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which collects eagles that die naturally or are electrocuted by power lines, among other hazards.

Requests to the repository have doubled over the past five years, says its supervisor, Bernadette Atencio. She estimates that more than half of the requests from American Indians are related to powwows. The waiting list is so long that it takes about 2 1/2 years to get a whole bald eagle carcass and 31/2 for a young golden eagle. The wait is shorter for loose feathers.

Prices for eagle parts on the black market have more than doubled since the 1980s, says Kevin Ellis, a Fish and Wildlife Service agent in Grand Junction, Colo. A whole, young golden eagle sells for as much as $1,200, and a single golden eagle tail feather in mint condition can fetch more than $250. A whole eagle yields about 52 feathers suitable for powwow outfits.

"More people are actively asserting themselves to obtain eagle parts" at powwows and more individuals are killing eagles for their own use, says Mr. Ellis, who relies on a network of informants. He says the development is partly due to frustration with the repository, which can be slow and sometimes hands out stained or crushed feathers.

Wildlife law-enforcement officers employ some of the same tactics as federal narcotics officers, including wearing wires when coming in contact with suspected eagle-parts traders. Sometimes they embed microchips in carcasses at the eagle repository to catch people who try to sell the birds after receiving them.

Wildlife agents say it's hard to enforce the laws because federal lawyers take relatively few cases against eagle killers or traders. Moreover, says James Candelaria, an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado, convictions in the cases rarely result in severe penalties because it is difficult to prove the black-market value of seized animal parts. Questions of religious freedom also complicate matters.

In the late 1700s, there were as many as 100,000 adult bald eagles in the lower 48 states, says David A. Buehler, a professor of wildlife science at the University of Tennessee. The population was hurt mainly by habitat destruction and by hunting, and between around 1950 and the early 1970s the number of eagles in some areas fell by 90 percent. The number dipped as low as 800 in 1963 before reviving to more than 15,000 today. Separately, British Columbia and Alaska are home to about 100,000 bald eagles, a population that's remained relatively stable over the centuries.

The population of golden eagles, which never became a threatened species, isn't as well-tracked. As of the early 1980s there were about 63,000 golden eagles in 16 Western states, according to the Birds of North America encyclopedia. Golden and bald eagles are the only indigenous eagles in the U.S.

At the Indio competition, Ken Ball, 61, a retired schoolteacher from Goodyear, Ariz., was entered in the "southern straight" dance category. He carried a feathered fan and wore a headdress topped with a white feather tipped with black.

When asked what bird the feathers came from, Mr. Ball, who is not Native American, cupped a hand around his mouth and whispered as if he were spelling a swear word in front of a young child: "e-a-g-l-e." Asked whether the golden eagle feathers were legal, Mr. Ball says he got them in 1962, just before the ban came into force.
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