Anyone who possesses an eagle feather, and doesn’t meet the requirements, could face fines up to $100,000 and a year in prison under the Eagle Act. A second offense is upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony, and carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The act also provides for a civil penalty of up to $5,000.
Under the Migratory Bird Act, killing an eagle is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $15,000 fine. Commercialization of bird parts is a felony that carries a two-year prison sentence and a $250,000.
“You’re not allowed to sell or trade [eagle feathers that are legally obtained], and legally, anyone you give them to has to be certified to have them,” said Anquoe. “I myself do not like the sell or trade of eagle feathers, so I agree with the law, but I’m sure other Indians would disagree.”
In fact, according to one Tahlequah man who requested he remain anonymous for this story, the sale and trade of feathers is quite common.
“It’s not even the bald eagle feathers that are the most popular items in the underground feather market,” Anquoe said. “It’s the feathers from the immature golden eagle. They’re the ones you see that have a base and quill that are white and a black tip.”
According to the anonymous source, about 70 percent of the eagle feathers a person will see at a powwow are from the golden eagle, with the other 30 percent being bald eagle feathers.
“A lot of Indians look down on the bald eagle because they say it eats carrion. A golden eagle will eat carrion, too, if it gets real hungry,” he said. “But the bald eagle is not really revered as much as the golden eagle.”