A lot of the eagle feathers on the illegal market, he said, aren’t actually taken from dead eagles. They’re picked up off the ground in areas like northwest Arkansas, where commercial chicken houses are common.
A couple of eagles will get into a tussle over which one gets to feast on an unfortunate chicken, and leave a few of their own feathers on the ground. Those feathers are then retrieved by people who, at that point – whether they know it or not – are violating federal law.
Also, Anquoe added, eagle feathers aren’t the only highly regarded plumage. The feathers of other birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – like hawks and “anhingas,” which are water birds – are often traded illegally, too.
“I’ve had Navajos approach me and offer to trade me a whole bald eagle for 50 scissortail feathers,” he said. “They use them to make fans they use in the Native American Church.”
According to Anquoe, some Indians have had eagle feathers taken away from them by federal agents who attended powwows just for that purpose: to bust illegal feather owners.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the eagle feather laws,” Anquoe said. “A lot of people think you just have to have a CDIB card to have them, but you have to go through the whole application process.”
Contact Eddie Glenn at email@example.com.