Nonrecognized tribe in Texas sues over seizure of eagle feathers

Leaders and members of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas are suing the federal government over the seizure of eagle feathers at a powwow.

An agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided a powwow in McAllen on March 11, 2006. According to a complaint filed in federal court, over 50 eagle feathers and eagle parts were taken from participants.

Robert Soto, the tribe's vice chairman, said the raid violated his religious rights. “If I got caught speeding, I deserve a speeding ticket, but if I get caught worshipping God the way He created us as native people, that’s not violating the law," he tells The McAllen Monitor

Federal law protects golden and bald eagles, as well as certain migratory birds. A new Department of Justice policy states that members of federally recognized tribes will not be prosecuted for using feathers of parts in connection with cultural and religious practices.

But the Lipan Apache lack federal recognition so its members aren't protected. “If you’re going to say, ‘Well, you violated the law.’ Yeah, we violate the law. But, we violate the law because the law is keeping us from practicing who we are," Soto tells the paper

The lawsuit has been pending in the federal court for Southern District of Texas since March 2007.

Get the Story:
Texas tribe continues lawsuit against feds while settling in McAllen (The McAllen Monitor 3/13)

Relevant Documents:
Memorandum: Possession or Use of the Feathers or Other Parts of Federally Protected Birds for Tribal Cultural and Religious Purposes (October 12, 2012)

Related Stories:
Non-recognized tribes excluded from DOJ eagle feather policy (2/20)
Justice Department announces policy on use of eagle feathers (10/12)

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