Justice Department Announces Policy on Use of Eagle Feathers
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on October 12, 2012, that members of federally recognized tribes are allowed to possess or use eagle feathers. Since 1975 the U.S. Department of the Interior had issued a similar statement, known as the Morton Policy, regarding Indian cultural and religious use of migratory bird feathers and parts. Today’s DOJ announcement clarifies and confirms that the federal agency will continue to exercise its prosecutorial discretion consistent with the Morton Policy. Members of federally recognized tribes are covered by the Morton Policy regardless of whether they have a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit.
“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. The Department of Justice is committed to striking the right balance in enforcing our nation’s 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.” –U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
"This policy is a tremendous step forward for Alaska Natives and American Indians. Sealaska is pleased that it played a small part in this effort based on our core cultural value relating to our protecting our relationship to the land and wildlife and through the work of Sealaska Heritage Institute. This policy is a step in the right direction, but we are continuing our efforts to allow artists to use flicker feathers on their artwork and to sell these pieces in the same way that our artists can sell marine mammal arts and crafts.” –Sealaska President and CEO Chris E. McNeil Jr.
"We applaud the Obama administration for recognizing Native American spirituality and the significance of Eagles to Alaska Natives and American Indians. We also thank our brothers and sisters who have worked long and diligently to resolve this issues. It comes as a great relief that we no longer have to hide the use of Eagle feathers or other bird parts or feel as if we are criminals in practicing our cultural and religious traditions." –Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl