Unique eagle recycling program for Native Americans - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Unique eagle recycling program for Native Americans

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By: Jenn Schanz

They're majestic, rare birds that government agencies work hard to protect. But for Native Americans, the eagle is more than just a pretty animal.

"It is such a sacred, sacred bird to our people. It's a spiritual bird," says Jessica James-Grant of Lincoln's Indian Center.

Native Americans use eagle feathers and talons for religious practices; they believe the bird acts as a prayer messenger.

In fact, the eagle staff, a long stick decorated with eagle feathers, is a sign of a Native American nation.

"That's our first flag, traditional flag that we have as native people," James-Grant says. 

But because the eagle is such a protected bird, carrying its feathers is illegal unless you have a special permit.

Nebraska Game and Parks is part of a special recycling program, which sends the dead carcasses of eagles found in the wild to a repository, where Native Americans can get them.

Joel Jorgensen, who works for Game and Parks, says the program isn't a new one, but when he posted it on his blog, he got a big response from the community; interest, appreciation, and surprise.

"This is a great, great example of where everybody's coming together, working together, and the outcomes are all positive."

Jorgensen says the number of bald eagles in Nebraska has been steadily increasing over the past two decades.

Once the eagles are found, they're brought to Game and Parks to be frozen until they can be shipped to the National Eagle Repository in Colorado.

From there, Native Americans with permits can come pick up the birds to be used for special spiritual rituals.

Lincoln's Indian Center hosts cultural events every August. They're open to the public, and eagle feathers and talons are used during the ceremonies. The next celebration will be August 15-17 at the Indian Center, 1100 Military Road.

For more information on the Pow Wow, for Native American culture, visit: www.indiancenterinc.org


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