Native American Dancer - 5 x 7 Color Fine Art Print

Photography by Nikon Man

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Feathers

The question about the legality of feathers frequently comes up on our NA Forum Thread as new people join in.  I have collected information from a variety of resources that we can use as references for this topic.

 

This list is not meant to be inclusive.  Links are given as to the source document for the information summarized here. 

 

Should members have questions about the legality of feathers in the future, you can always refer to this site for information. 

 

http://www.birdiq.com/learn/laws.html

 

Most birds that inhabit the United States are protected by one or more laws enacted by Congress or state wildlife departments. Information about these laws and the birds they protect are provided below as answers to regularly asked questions. In addition, many internet links are provided for more detailed information about the laws, acts, and treaties described.

 

What birds are protected by law?
Most migratory birds found in the United States are protected by international treaties as well as U.S. laws. No part of protected birds, live or dead, including feathers, claws, bones, skins, or taxidermy-mounted birds can be possessed without an appropriate permit, which is exceptionally hard to obtain even for legally acquired birds or bird parts.

 

What laws do states implement?
Although states must abide by national and international laws, each state also has laws governing hunting, falconry, taxidermy, and possession of birds and bird parts. States also have primary responsibility for resident birds, especially resident game birds (primarily non-migratory birds such as grouse, pheasants, partridge, quail, turkeys, etc.; and introduced “pests” such as European Starlings and House Sparrows), including hunting, possession, protection, and law enforcement. Contact information for each of the 50 states’ wildlife departments (and USFWS offices) can be accessed at
http://offices.fws.gov/statelinks.html

 

Can I keep the molted feather of a bird that I found?
Unfortunately, no; that is, not legally. Although it may seem harmless, today’s laws were made to protect birds from illegal poaching and trafficking. These laws were required to stop trade in egret and heron plumes and eagle feathers, along with the unlawful killing and trade of other birds, including endangered species in the United States and around the world.

 

May I retrieve feathers of birds killed by cars or other accidental means?
No. Birds and their parts can not be possessed by individuals.

 

Can I keep the feathers of birds killed by a hunter?
No. Only a hunter with an appropriate hunting license can keep such feathers or skins containing feathers.

 

Can American Indians legally use eagle feathers on traditional clothing?
A summary of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which provides full protection for these 2 species, is provided at http://permits.fws.gov/mbpermits/ActSummaries.html. However, the US Secretary of Interior issues permits to American Indians to use eagle, hawk, and owl feathers and parts in traditional religious and cultural ceremonies. In an effort to utilize eagle carcasses found or confiscated, the National Eagle Repository has been established by the Department of the Interior to store and distribute eagle feathers to American Indians.

 

Is it true that Native Americans can hunt birds and collect eggs as subsistence hunters?
Subsistence hunting of some birds and collecting of some birds’ eggs by Native Americans for food, primarily in the northern regions of Alaska, is permitted. Birds and eggs utilized primarily include geese, ducks, swans, and Sandhill Cranes and, to a lesser extent, loons, gulls, and some shorebirds. For more information, see pages 7 and 8 of the PDF file:
http://www.le.fws.gov/pdffiles/Canada_Mig_Bird_Treaty.pdf

 

Owls

Owls are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to harm or possess any of these birds. If you find an owl that appears to have been shot, trapped or poisoned, please report this information to your local game warden. Please contact the Game and Fish Department if you have any other questions concerning these species.
http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/owls/index.htm

 

In the United States it is illegal to possess and sell feathers of Migratory Birds without a permit. This includes Black Hawks, Eagles, Cranes and several other native species. People who are certifiable Native Americans and registered to a tribe that is recognized by the federal government are the only people allowed to possess eagle feathers. Fines are steep for anyone who is illegally found in possession of an eagle feather.
http://www.tribaldirectory.net/articles/indian-feathers.html

 

There are eighteen species of owls in North America. Some species, like the Screech Owl and the Great Horned Owl, live in one place year round; others, like the Saw-whet Owl and the Short-Eared Owl and the Burrowing Owl will travel long distances.
All owls are protected by state and federal regulations. It is illegal to capture or kill an owl; it is also illegal to possess an owl, living or dead, without the proper permits from local state governments, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
http://birds-of-prey.org/cm/owl-facts/

 

Hawks
All hawks are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to capture or kill a hawk, or to possess a hawk, alive or dead, without proper permits from local state governments as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

 

 

Indian Feathers
Indian feathers and their importance in ceremonies.

 

Indian Feathers are often found in Native American headdresses; however they are also used as decorative items. Sometimes they are tied into locks of hair and other times they are worn on a head band. Feathers are used for prayer as well as in dream catchers and bows and arrows. A lot of work goes into creating these beautiful decorative feathers.

 

Different species of Indian feathers had different meanings. Eagle Feathers are the most respected by the Native American people. Eagle feathers are thought to show courage, strength, truth and majesty. In fact many Native American people believed that all birds of prey had a special connection with God. The golden eagle in particular was thought to be a messenger for God. It was believed that the eagle carried messages from man to God and from God to man.

 

Owl feathers were said to be magic talisman by some Indian Tribes. The Owl Feather, especially the snow owl feather, was often seen as very spiritual and was sometimes used on talking sticks to prevent deception from entering the sacred circle.

 

The meanings of Indian feathers differ from tribe to tribe. In some tribes feathers are given to others for acts of bravery. In other tribes feathers are used to keep a count of how many enemies have been killed. In many tribes only men were allowed to wear feathers; however there are tribes in which women are permitted to wear elaborate headdresses.

 

In the United States it is illegal to possess and sell feathers of Migratory Birds without a permit. This includes Black Hawks, Eagles, Cranes and several other native species. People who are certifiable Native Americans and registered to a tribe that is recognized by the federal government are the only people allowed to possess eagle feathers. Fines are steep for anyone who is illegally found in possession of an eagle feather.

Should you have additional information that be worthwhile to add to this post, please contact me and I will add it to this reference.

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