Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects
birds of prey and other migratory birds. This act says that
migratory birds, their feathers/nests/and even eggs are not
allowed to be kept by anyone. This means feathers of birds that
are dead or alive. The only people who have permission to have
these are Native Americans. They can use them in religious or
cultural celebrations or activities and can get them from
‘feather banks’ or repositories. Repositories are places where
the government collects and keeps feathers and body parts that
are sent in by people who find them. There is one in Denver,
Colorado, and another in Ashland, Oregon. Any other person has
to get special licenses to own these, even if they are going to
be used for teaching.
Native Americans respect birds of prey. Each kind of bird is
a symbol of something. The eagle is probably the most
important to them. Native Americans believed that when all
birds were created, the eagle was chosen as the leader. The
wearing of an eagle feather is thought to bring that person
nearer to God. If a Native American has an eagle feather, he is
supposed to hang it somewhere in his house. It can’t be put
away in a box, for example. Just as people honor their nation’s
flag, Native Americans honor eagle feathers and make sure that
they don’t fall to the ground, get messed up, or treated with
Golden Eagle feather was the most honored eagle
If a Native American man or boy did something very brave, he
might earn an eagle feather if the deed could be proven.
Different feathers were given for different deeds. Only
‘earned’ feathers were allowed to be worn. For example, if a
brave was out hunting and found an eagle feather, he could take
it home but he couldn’t actually wear it until he did something
heroic. Really old braves might have lots of feathers that they
would attach to a headdress. These headdresses were a display
of their bravery and heroic deeds.
There were Native American myths for eagles and other birds
of prey. For example:
Some thought owls were a sign of danger or death.
Others thought that owl hoots meant a they were
going to get a visit from a witch.
Lakota Sioux people thought it was good luck to see
Ancient Incas thought vultures relayed their wishes
to the gods.
Some Native Americans thought the
caused thunder because their wings make such a loud
noise as they flew.
American Eagle & Native American Indian.
19 Oct. 2007. <http://www.eagles.org/native_american.htm>.
Kelly. Birds of prey. San Diego: Lucent Books, 2000.
American Eagle Symbolism.
19 Oct. 2007. <http://www.eagles.org/vueaglewebcs/sym_native_american.htm>.
23 Oct. 2007. <http://www.owlpages.com/articles.php?section=Owl+Mythology&title=World>.
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