Ashland Laboratory Provides Eagle Feathers to Native Americans

Jun 4, 2014

Ashland, Ore., played a unique role when the Endangered Species Act of 1973 curtailed Native American access to golden and bald eagle feathers. The Indians use them for headdresses and religious activities, including burials.

During the 1980s and early ‘90s, the nationwide scarcity of feathers was addressed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory located on East Main Street in Ashland. The laboratory’s eagle repository collected dead eagles from wildlife agents around the country. The eagles had usually died from electrocution or poisoning. By making their feathers available, Ashland’s lab reduced illegal eagle hunting.

Some Indian tribes were not satisfied that it took up to two weeks to grant their requests for feathers and up to 18 months to obtain a whole carcass.  In 1992, a member of the Yakima Nation was arrested for killing four eagles in Eastern Oregon. He appealed on grounds of religious discrimination, but the Oregon District Court found that the government had a compelling interest to protect eagles. While the Forensic Lab is still in Ashland, the National Eagle Repository moved to Denver in 1995.

 "Native Americans and Alaska Natives." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. Web. 22 May 2014.  "Timeline." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Web. 22 May 2014. "Timeline." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Web. 22 May 2014.