Man pleads guilty to selling artifacts
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NOVEMBER 2, 2000

A non-Native Minnesota man on Tuesday pleaded guilty to selling Indian artifacts containing eagle feathers, under the condition that he be allowed to challenge eagle protection laws.

Timothy P. Kornwolf, 54, was indicted in July for possessing with intent to sell a Sioux dance shield, a headdress, and a Sioux Yawapi medicine wand, all of which contain eagle feathers. The US Attorney's Office in Minnesota said Kornwolf has admitted selling the shield for $7,000 and the headdress for $15,000, violations of two federal laws.

The Bald and Golden Protection Act, first passed in 1940, makes it illegal to sell any part of bald or golden eagles. Additionally, eagles are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, first passed in 1918.

But Kornwolf believes these laws don't apply to his artifacts because they predate both laws. According to Kornwolf's attorney, his great-uncle obtained the items while working for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1904.

In 1979, the Supreme Court considered the issue. Two men in Colorado claimed the laws didn't apply because their artifacts predated the laws.

The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. It ruled that both laws apply to the sale of any items containing eagle parts, regardless of their date.

Kornwolf now claims the Supreme Court has changed its mindset regarding the laws and how they apply to his property.

Should the Court come to a change of heart, it might affect the potential repatriation of Indian cultural property, many of which predate the 20th century. A recent undercover sting in New Mexico resulted in the recovery of several artifacts, including an 1875 Cheyenne eagle feather headdress which had been sold by an art gallery for $140,000.

In response, another arts dealer suggested the government is wasting resources by going after people who violate eagle protection laws. The FBI, the BIA, US Fish and Wildlife, and the National Park Service frequently cooperate on cases involving eagle feather artifacts.

The agencies also investigate Internet sites, looking for potential violations of the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) of 1990.

Get the Supreme Court Decision:
Andrus v. Allard 441 US 51 (Sup Ct 1979)

Related Stories:
Undercover sting nets sacred artifacts (Tribal Law 10/02)
Govt works to protect artifacts (Tribal Law 06/29)
Yahoo! removes auction (The Talking Circle 06/22)
Culture for Sale: Sitting Bull (The Talking Circle 06/20)
Culture for Sale: eBay (The Talking Circle 5/23)

Relevant Links:
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show -
The Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act -
Migratory Bird Treaty Act -