Music Matters
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

6/3/15 Congress approves a commission to better address Native American children's issues

The U.S. Congress yesterday [Tuesday] unanimously adopted legislation to create a Commission on Native American children. That's according to a prepared statement by bill sponsor U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. The 11-member commission will study and develop recommendations on ways to combine and coordinate federal programs and funding for Alaska Native, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian children.

The commission is named in honor of Dr. Walter Soboleff, a Tlingit elder from southeast Alaska who promoted cultural education, and a lower 48 tribal leader, Alyce Spotted Bear. Murkowski said, “Walter Soboleff lived his life by a simple motto: ‘Take care of the old person you are to become'.” But she said that must begin as early as possible. Murkowski sids the aim is to more effectively address issues affecting Native children, such as poverty, abuse and domestic violence, and substance abuse.


Alaskan eagle feathers find new, honored, uses

By Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska

When an eagle dies in Alaska, its feathers may end up in a powwow - or on a graduation cap - somewhere in the Lower-48. That's because of a federal program connecting tribes, raptor centers and wildlife officials. A bald eagle is released back into the wild at the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka.

It’s one of hundreds treated for injuries, disease or malnourishment at centers around the state.

But the story doesn’t end with the flight.

That’s because the raptor center collects feathers rehabilitating birds lose while molting.   

Jennifer Cedarleaf is rehabilitation coordinator at the Sitka center. She said “Usually, that happens kind of towards the end of summer.”

The Sitka center collects eagle carcasses, as well as shed plumage from residents and rehabbees.

“Our education birds that are here year-round, when they drop their feathers, we collect those,” said Cedarleaf. “And they all just get saved up and I can send them down there.”

“There” is the National Eagle Repository, run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service near Denver, Colorado.

Only Alaska Natives and American Indians are allowed to gather, store and use feathers or parts from eagles and some other protected birds – with a few exceptions.

If the plumage or parts aren’t available, the repository helps.

Joseph Early is the Native American liaison for the wildlife service’s Southwest region and a Laguna Pueblo tribal member.

“It could be for folks who are in a powwow, dancing, fans, bustles,” said Early. “We have some of our tribes that use them for their very sacred ceremonies. Naming ceremonies, birth ceremonies, sometimes for funerals, graduations. It basically comes down to the individual member to be able to use that feature for however they want to.”

Early discussed the program during the recent Native American Fish and Wildlife Society convention in Juneau.

He shared reports showing Alaska provided about 10 percent of the feathers, parts or whole eagle carcasses sent to the repository last year. But tribal members here only took half a percent of what was distributed.

“Eagles are fairly abundant up here, of course,” said Early. “But we may have some tribes up here that want golden eagle, which are a little more abundant in the Lower-48. We try to accommodate any tribes for what they want.”

Tribes and members cannot give or sell eagle carcasses, feathers or parts to non-Native people.

In addition to live birds, the Alaska Raptor Center collects carcasses for shipment to the federal repository.

Cedarleaf says one particularly bad year, more than 70 were tagged, frozen and mailed south.

“It is sad when you find a beautiful bird dead,” said Cedarleaf. “And for us, it’s even more sad when we find one that’s banded that we knew. Like I had one that hit a powerline just a few weeks ago that we had when it was a baby. And that makes it more difficult.

She says knowing the carcasses will find a new use makes it a little easier.