Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

FEATURE

 

 

EAGLE FEATHERS CONFISCATED

Robert Soto, September 1, 2007

 
 

Dear Manataka:

 

I pray all is well with you as we face the end of summer.  I find it hard to believe that on August 11, we celebrated 1 1/2 years since the Department of Interior came to our pow wow and took 42 of our eagle feathers.  I have gotten well over 5,000 e-mails from people all over the world concerning this event.  Of the thousands of letters that I received, only three came from three Indian people who said I should just let it go.  The feathers are important, but the feathers do not make me an Indian just as a cross does not make a person a Christian.  Just like the cross is a symbol of Christianity, so the feather is a very important symbol of who we are as American Indians.  So the fight is no longer about my feathers but about changing laws.  Laws that discriminate against four-fifths of our American Indian population.  Soon after the seizure of our eagle feathers happened I started seeing the greater picture. It was no longer a fight over my feathers but over the rights of all American Indian people to wear what is legally ours. While getting my feathers back is important, I started to see a bigger calling, and that is the need to change policies and laws enforced by the United States government to keep us from using that which is sacred to many of us.

 

The whole situation has been a learning experience.  I wish all of you could hear the things that are coming from the United States government via the Department of Interior through their lawyers.  Things that, if they applied to any other racial group, the courtrooms would be full of lawsuits.  If I had not heard them with my own ears, I would never have believed it.  I heard from my very own ears as the lawyer for the Department of Interior said to the judge at least three things that determine whether a gathering was sacred or not in their eyes.  Their lawyer said, "Because the pow wow was advertised in the newspaper, it ceased to be a sacred gathering."  Yes, there is a law that states that if we, as American Indians, advertise any of our gatherings, ceremonies or pow wows, they cease to be a sacred gathering and now become a public gathering, giving the Department of Interior the right to come and do as they feel is right.  Can you imagine that law applying to a church gathering or to any other gathering in the United States?  The second law that was mentioned that determines if our gathering is sacred is the exchange of money.  The lawyers of the Department of Interior said that because there was the exchange of moneys at the pow wow it ceased to be a sacred gathering and now becomes a public event, giving the United States government the right to come in and do as they please at our pow wow.  He gave five examples of the exchange of money: cake walks, raffles, 50/50, vendors fees and vendors selling their crafts.  The third thing they said that determines if a gathering is sacred is the status of the people putting on the event.  If the people putting on the event could not prove they were Indian by their status card, the event was not a valid sacred gathering.  That means if you do not hold a legitimate BIA card, you have no right to put on things like pow wows and even calling them Indian events.  I could write a book about the things that I have heard in the courtroom concerning what the United States government, in view of the Department of Interior, really feel about you, as American Indians.

 

If you have noticed, I refer to ourselves as American Indians.  The Department of Interior does not want you to know that on October 30, 1997, the definition of Native American was changed from one belonging to a federally recognized tribe.  Everyone should have full knowledge of the definition that is accepted by all branches of the United States government - except the Department of Interior, who still wants to rule over us and determine who has the right to be an American Indian.  Please note, memorize or just copy and carry around the following statement:  Under Federal Law as stated in the Federal Register, dated October 30, 1997, entitled "Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity,"  62 FR 58782-01, the definition of American Indian is:  "A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment."  This definition of American Indian was mandated to "be used by the Bureau of Census in the 2000 census including other federal programs that were directed to adopt this definition as soon as possible.  Three things now define who is an American Indians: 1) A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North, South and even Central America; 2) A person who has maintained tribal affiliations to any original people groups in North, South and Central America; 3) A person who has maintained community attachment to any original people groups in North, South and Central America.  A card issued to us by the United States Government does not define who we are.

 

I am writing to catch you up with what is happening with our feather situation.  Summer has been full of activity concerning our eagle feathers.  You may not be aware that there are two cases going on at the same time with our feathers.  One is of a vendor who was cited for  having a dreamcatcher in his booth that supposedly contained eight wild pigeon feathers.  The same birds that each year thousands of men come to our area, purchase a hunting permit and are given permission to kill at least 25 defenseless little birds.  It is OK for them to kill them with a piece of paper issued to them for a price by the United States government, but if an American Indian picks one up and uses it, it is in violation of the law.  Maybe if they stop killing them for sport they would not be endangered.  The second case is about the eagle feathers that were taken away.

 

On July 3, 2007, my lawyers contacted me telling me they wanted me to appear in court on July 5th.  I thought it was for the vendor since he has an appeal hearing that is coming up soon. But no sooner had I arrived then I was advised that the hearing was for my feathers.  The Department of Interior via the Fish and Wildlife Service and their lawyers had submitted an eighty-page document telling the judge why our case should be thrown out of court and not be heard at all.  Our lawyers had prepared a page and a half response to the their demand.  As the judge called us all before the stand he looked at the lawyer for the Department of Interior and said, "With all your resources in Washington, DC, is this the best you can do?"  Instead of granting the motion to dismiss our case, the judge set a court date for September 7, 2007.  This will be a status hearing where the judge will ask both parties to produce a settlement outside of court. The problem is that the lawyers for the Department of Interior have already said they will not yield to our demand.  We are asking them for three things:

 

1. Give us our feathers back.

2. Give the rights for all American Indians to use the feathers regardless of status, without

    fear of the government.

3. Give the Lipan Apache the right to be American Indians and recognize us as American

    Indians.

 

I would like to ask that in the next week or so, would you write letters or call the following persons and let them know how you feel.

 

Thank you and keep us in prayers.

 

God bless,

 

Robert Soto

 


Secretary of U.S. Department of Interior

U.S. Department of Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240

contact@fws.gov

webmaster@bia.gov

 webteam@ios.doi.gov

 202-208-3100

 

H. Dale Hall, Director

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Main Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20240-0001

http://www.fws.gov/duspit/contactus.htm

1-800-334-9453

 

Alberto Gonzalez

U.S. Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

Attorney General - 202-353-1555 

Department of Justice Main Switchboard - 202-514-2000

 

Albuquerque (RO)

Benjamin Tuggle

Region 2 Acting Regional Director
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 329
Albuquerque, NM 87103-0329
Office: 505-248-7889
Fax: 505-248-7899
SAC Nicholas Chavez

 

San Antonio, TX
RAC
Gary Young
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
1874 Grandstand Drive
San Antonio, TX 78238-4507
Office: 210-681-8419
Fax: 210-681-2415

 

 McAllen, TX

US Fish and Game Wild Life Service

320 N. Main Room 229

McAllen Texas  78501

956-686-8591

 

The Honorable John Cornyn
United States Senate
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4304

202-224-2934  202-228-2856 

http://cornyn.senate.gov/public/

 

Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senate
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-4302  

202-224-5922   202-224-0776  

http://hutchison.senate.gov/contact.html

 

The Honorable Ruben Hinojosa
United States House of Representatives
2463 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4315  

202-225-2531   202-225-5688  

http://www.house.gov/writerep/

 

The Honorable Lloyd Doggett
United States House of Representatives
201 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-4325  

202-225-4865   202-225-3073  

http://www.house.gov/doggett/doggett_ima/doggett_get_address.htm

 

 

 


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