A tour of the National Eagle Repository, a federal facility in Colorado that provides eagle feathers and eagle parts to citizens of federally recognized tribes. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ute Tribe calls new eagle policy a 'step in the right direction'

Leaders of the Ute Indian Tribe, based in Fort Duchesne, Utah, issued the following statement in response to a new eagle retention policy issued by the federal government. The policy allows bald and golden eagle remains found in Indian Country to stay there under certain conditions.

The tribe was among those who asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the change in policy in order to ensure tribal citizens can secure eagle feathers and parts for use in cultural and religious ceremonies.

The Ute Tribal Business Committee appreciates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to establish a new policy promoting the direct collection of eagle feathers found on tribal lands.

While this policy recognizes tribal sovereignty and is a step in the right direction towards protecting tribal members ability to practice their religion, the Business Committee remains concerned with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ongoing consideration of the Petition submitted by Pastor Robert Soto and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which seeks to allow non-Indian the ability to possess and use eagle feathers.

Allowing non-Indians to possess eagle feathers for religious purposes fundamentally violates the government’s trust obligation to Indian tribes, undermines the federal law and policy governing over a century of tribal federal relations, and irreparably harms all federally recognized Indian tribes by incentivizing the appropriation and commercialization of not only eagle feathers, but Native American culture and religious beliefs.

The Business Committee looks forward to continuing discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on these issues to ensure tribal sovereignty and the government’s trust responsibility to all federally recognized Indian Tribes are upheld.

Tribal Eagle Retention Policy - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

New Tribal Eagle Retention Policy

Dear Tribal Leader Letter


Frequently Asked Questions

Informational Poster

Press Release: Service Announces Landmark Revision to Eagle Retention Policy

Federal Register Notices
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Religious Use of Feathers (April 30, 2019)
Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Religious Use of Feathers; Extension of Comment Period (July 2, 2019)

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

5th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
McAllen Grace Brethren Church v. Salazar (August 20, 2014)

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