U.S. laws are very strict regarding the possession of eagle feathers. It is illegal to possess eagle feathers in any form unless you are an authorised American Indian. Possession of eagle feathers may lead to steep fines and prison.
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Feathers as Artifacts
Many American Indian groups use bald eagle and golden eagle feathers in cultural and religious ceremonies. According to the Quebec History Encyclopedia, examples of eagle feather usage include masks, rattles, prayer sticks and other cult objects. Many of these items are very collectable in today's antique markets.
According to the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it is illegal to possess any item made from eagle feathers. Violation of this act can lead to a fine of up to £3,250 and up to one year in prison. The Antique Tribal Art Dealer's Association's advice to members regarding eagle feathers is, "Under no circumstances should eagle or migratory bird feathers be offered for purchase or sale."
Only enrolled members of a federally recognised tribe may own eagle feathers for religious purposes, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Recognized American Indians must apply to have feathers sent to them by the Fish and Wildlife Service. While American Indians may possess eagle feathers, it is still illegal for them to sell the feathers.
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- Michigan State University College of Law: The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
- Marianopolis College: The Quebec History Encyclopedia
- The Antique Tribal Art Dealer's Association: A Primer on Tribal Art Law
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Questions and Answers About the National Eagle Repository
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Possession of Eagle Feathers and Parts by Native Americans