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Feds Invade Native American Gathering, Grab Property, Threaten Jail

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

The Federalist, March 18, 2015

Each week, for many months, Pastor Robert Soto of the Lipan Apache tribe drove to the house of a terminally ill Pawnee woman. He attended to her at the behest of her daughter who knew her mother was struggling with the prospect of death. As he describes it, he helped her “prepare spiritually to face her Creator.”

In gratitude, after her mother died, the daughter gave Soto ten eagle feathers. Her mother had given her instructions to give them to Soto at the moment of her death to show her gratitude for his kindness. Two of those feathers were among the dozens covert government agents confiscated during a family powwow in 2006 in an operation the Department of Interior called “Operation Powwow.”

The government justified its actions, and the covert operation, by claiming that two laws protecting migratory birds give them the right to enter Native American religious ceremonies and confiscate sacred eagle feathers. The government still insists on enforcing these laws even though eagles are no longer endangered and the Lipan Apache never kill eagles, as the tribe would consider it a form of sacrilege.