Feds collect dead eagles to help Native traditions
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The bald eagle may be America's emblem, but the birds are susceptible to the same dangers as the average crow. Each year, thousands of bald eagles are hit by cars, electrocuted and accidentally poisoned.
But unlike crows or any other bird in America, the U.S. government takes a special interest in what happens to these birds after they die.
This is where Steve Smith, maybe the only person in Alaska legally allowed to keep a freezer full of dead bald eagles, comes in.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer is in charge of a salvage effort to collect dead bald and golden eagles and send them to an obscure federal agency called the National Eagle Repository.
On this morning, the freezer, housed in a Fish and Wildlife facility near the Anchorage airport, contains one half-dozen bald eagles wrapped carefully in black garbage bags. One is from the Kenai Peninsula town of Soldotna, another from the Aleutian fishing outpost of Dutch Harbor. Smith will prepare them in airtight packaging to be sent to the Colorado repository. He takes his duty to the national bird seriously.
"Living or dead, I treat them with great respect and care," he says.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly collected, processed and distributed dead eagles via the repository in an effort to balance conservation efforts with helping Native American tribes continue traditional practices.
At the Commerce City, Colo., agency birds are processed and then distributed to members of federally-recognized tribes who have applied for whole birds, parts or feathers for use in religious and cultural ceremonies. Some tribes have criticized the repository, saying it takes too long to get the birds. The wait for the most requested item, a whole bald eagle, can take up to three years. The average wait for feathers is more than one year.
The Fish and Wildlife's salvage operations take place in every state where bald eagles are found. But maybe nowhere is busier than Alaska — the only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated region that's made up of a single state.
During the 2008-2009 year, Alaska contributed 163 salvaged bald eagles to the repository. By contrast, a region made up of the Rocky Mountain States plus the Dakotas, Utah, Nebraska and Kansas contributed 162 birds.
Alaska has the largest concentration of bald eagles in the country — almost half the total population. In the southeastern Alaska town of Haines, up to 3,000-4,000 eagles gather along the Chilkat River's salmon run during October to December, when the town holds its annual "Bald Eagle Festival."
Smith gets calls almost every day about eagles — both dead and injured — that are coming in to Anchorage. On this sunny late winter day, he's on his way to a regional air carrier's cargo offices to pick up a few birds.
"We take them no matter what condition they're in — if they're on the side of the road for a while, if some animal has been chewing on it, we take all of them," he says. Many of the birds salvaged by Smith are flown in (all the state's air carriers allow injured eagles to fly for free; dead eagles are shipped as paid cargo) from remote areas.
More and more, Smith also receives injured eagles, who are rushed to a local bird rescue nonprofit for treatment and rehabilitation. Since starting the job in October, 40 injured eagles have been sent to Anchorage, but not all survived.
The birds usually come in one at a time — struck by cars, electrocuted — but occasionally arrive after a massive incident. A few years ago an Ocean Beauty Seafoods truck in Kodiak pulled out of a parking lot carrying an uncovered load of fish slime. In seconds, 50 nearby eagles dove in, attracted to the smell. Around 20 drowned in the goo; the rest flooded into Anchorage's Bird TLC emergency room for treatment.
"They just started pulling eagles out and sorting them into piles of living and dead," says Cindy Palmatier, who runs avian rehabilitation services at the Anchorage nonprofit.
Another mass bald eagle death occurred last winter, when an avalanche at the Dutch Harbor city dump killed 12 eagles. One survivor was sent to Anchorage and quickly worked her way into the heart of Smith, who calls the convalescing bird "Avalanche Girl."
Dealing with dead eagles every day can be grim, Smith says, but increasingly successful — rescues and the knowledge that dead birds' parts and feathers are going to be used comfort him.
On weekends, when Smith disappears into the valleys and hiking trails around Anchorage he occasionally spots a bald eagle from afar.
"I'm always happy when I see them in the wild and they're healthy and happy," he says. "I watch them and think, don't screw this up."
LONDON – Following the success of its first-ever photography competition, Survival International, the global movement for tribal peoples’ rights, has announced its second worldwide photography contest, which aims to celebrate photography as a powerful medium for raising awareness of tribal peoples, their unique ways of life and the threats to their existence.
Both amateur and professional photographers are encouraged to enter. Photographs can be submitted in the guardians category, which are images showing tribal peoples as guardians of the natural world; the community category, which are portraits of relationships between individuals, families or tribes; and the survival category, which are images showing tribal peoples’ diverse ways of life.
The judging panel consists of Survival’s Director Stephen Corry, Survival Italy Coordinator Francesca Casella, The Little Black Gallery Co-Founder Ghislain Pascal and Max Houghton, senior lecturer in photography at the London College of Communication.
The 12 winning entries will be published in Survival’s 2016 calendar with the overall winner’s image featured on the cover. The closing date for entries is April 30.
For more information, visit: <a href="http://www.survivalinternational.org/photography" target="_blank">www.survivalinternational.org/photography</a>.
DAHLONEGA, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on March 14 at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.
The speaker will be GCTOTA board member Walter J. Knapp, instructor of Native American Culture and History at UNG. The topic will be “Successes and Challenges for Native Americans Today and in the Future”.
Visit <a href="http://ung.edu/visitors/campuses/dahlonega/driving-directions.php" target="_blank">http://ung.edu/visitors/campuses/dahlonega/driving-directions.php</a>
for directions to the university. The meeting will be held in the Adult Education building across from the main entrance to the campus between a pizza place and a Dairy Queen. The address is 82 College Circle Drive.
The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeast. The association consists of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee, Creek and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
The GCTOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend the meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this fascinating and tragic period in this country’s history.
For more information about the TOTA, visit the National TOTA website at <a href="http://www.nationaltota.org" target="_blank">www.nationaltota.org</a>
and the Georgia Chapter website at <a href="http://www.gatrailoftears.org" target="_blank">www.gatrailoftears.org</a>. For questions about the March meeting, email Tony Harris at <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cherokee National Treasure Martha Berry will teach a beginners-level beadwork class from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 11 at the Oklahoma History Center at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive.
Participants will learn how to make a lady’s purse. All supplies and lunch is included in the cost.
For enrollment or cost information, call OHC Director of Education Jason Harris at 405-522-0785 or email him <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
Beadwork artist Martha Berry was born and raised in Tulsa. Her grandmother and mother taught her how to sew and embroider at age 5, and she later became a professional seamstress. As a Cherokee artist Berry creates elaborately beaded bandolier bags, moccasins, belts, knee bands, purses and sashes inspired by the styles of Southeastern tribes including the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Yuchi and Alabama. Her work is displayed in museums throughout the country.
Berry, 66, of Tyler, Texas, taught herself the craft of beading and continues to research the beadwork of Southeastern tribes. She is credited with helping bring back the art form to the Cherokee people and makes time to teach others her craft.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During a Feb. 7 benefit stomp dance, more than 400 people gathered at the Tahlequah Community Building to raise money for a local Cherokee family that suffered a horrific car accident in January.
The stomp dance was originally planned to raise money for the Echota Ground, a Cherokee stomp ground in Park Hill. Echota Ground Chief David Comingdeer said the event raised more than $3,500 with half going to the Flynns to help with their expenses.
Family members suffered multiple injuries and totaled their vehicle in the accident.
“This evening here in Tahlequah we’ve called all our ceremonial grounds together from the Cherokee Nation, Muskogee Creek, Eucha, Shawnee, Seminole, Seneca Cayuga, even Peoria and Ottawa,” Comingdeer said. “We’ve all come together to help a family, a Cherokee family, a ceremonial family who got in a really bad wreck. We’ve decided to do what we can to help them.”
The Flynns, driving a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, were hit in a head-on collision on State Highway 51 by Randall Welch, of Welling, who was driving a 2002 Nissan Frontier.
Welch was taken by Tulsa Life Flight and admitted for injuries while the driver of the Trailblazer, Jack “Red” Flynn, was taken to Arkansas with external trunk, leg and head injuries.
Jack’s passengers were Kathy Gann, Jimmy Ross and Nellie Flynn, all family members of Jack. Ross suffered injuries to the head trunk and leg, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Nellie, Jack’s mother, was taken to a Tulsa hospital with similar injuries.
Nellie was unable to make it to the event because of continual problems with the injuries she suffered. Jack, Ross and Gann were present during the dance along with several other family members.
Some family members said the accident had put the family in a financial bind with hospital visits and losing the vehicle.
“Their going back and forth to the hospital. Both him (Jack) and Nellie are going,” Linda Christie, a Flynn family relative, said.
She said the funds would help with gas, food, travel and anything else unforeseen.
Jack said without the benefit assistance the family would be forced to suffer more with the financial hardship in which the accident put them.
The Flynns and Ross will have a long road ahead of them for full recovery, family members said, but they were appreciative of the donations and support from those who attended.
Stomp dance attendee Celia Xavier said witnessing the fundraiser “felt like a throwback to the way our earlier societies were.”
“Moving in the same direction, giving a helping hand when one needed it. What affects one, affects all. We are supposed to help each other,” Xavier said. “The antithesis of today’s ‘me society.’ It was interesting to see kindness through the actions of the chief of the Echota Grounds. He is giving half the donations to the Flynn family, who was in dire need of help. It was a moving and spiritual experience.”
The family is a member of Stokes Ceremonial Grounds, but Comingdeer said it doesn’t matter what ground one is from.
“They may not be from our ground, but they’re from another ground and we have a lot of respect for each other. We always support each other, try to love and understand each other,” he said. “You can take everything away from us, even our land. You can take all of our corporation away, as long as we still have our beliefs and our tradition we can build a fire, have our dances and take our medicine, speak our language, then we’re still a tribe. Tonight is the foundation of our culture. It’s the foundation of our tribe, and this is how we help each other.
For those interested in donating to the Echota Ground or the Flynns can do so by mailing a check to Route 4 Box 1570, Stilwell, OK 74960. Make checks out to Echota Ground and indicate in the memo where donation is to go.
CATOOSA, Okla. – The 25th anniversary of Indian Health Care Resource Center’s annual dinner and auction “The Dance of the Two Moons” will be Feb. 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa.
The “Dance of the Two Moons” dinner and auction was established 25 years ago as an annual fundraiser to help support the many great programs and services provided to the Native American community by the IHCRC. Proceeds from the event are once again supporting the vital programs and services currently paid from IHCRC’s general fund, including: maternal/child health, adult/child fitness and wellness programs, annual powwow, Spring Break Youth Camp and Youth Summer Camps.
The honorary chairs of the 2015 “The Dance of the Two Moons” are Dr. Joseph and Mary Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham, medical director of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma and Mrs. Cunningham are personally dedicated to helping IHCRC improve the lives of our patients, states an IHCRC press release.
Tickets to the event are $150 per person or $250 per couple. Sponsorship levels are available ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. For more information, to preview auction items, or to purchase a sponsorship or tickets, visit <a href="http://www.ihcrc2moons.org" target="_blank">www.ihcrc2moons.org</a>.
The evening will include hors d'oeuvres, cocktails served during the silent auction, and a meal served in the grand ballroom as traditional dancers entertain attendees.
IHCRC officials said it appreciates having Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma as the 2015 Silver Anniversary Sponsor. Additional sponsors include Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Tiger Natural Gas, Meeks Group, Delores Titchywy Sumner, Conner & Winters, and many other generous business and personal contributors.
The Indian Health Care Resource Center of Tulsa is a 501(c)(3) organization funded through a contract with Indian Health Services, state and federal grants, private foundations and donors, and its annual fundraiser “The Dance of the Two Moons.” Utilizing a patient-centered, multidisciplinary, medical home approach, IHCRC offers a full range of health and wellness services tailored to the Indian community.
Services include: Medical, Optometry, Dental, Pharmacy, Transportation, Behavioral Health, Health Education and Wellness, Substance Abuse Treatment and Prevention, and Youth Programs focused on traditions, health, and leadership skills.
With more than 18,000 active patients representing in excess of 150 Tribes, IHCRC provides more than 126,000 patient visits each year to improve the general health status and reduce the incidence and severity of chronic disease of the urban Indian community.
Contact Deb Starnes at 918-382-1203 or <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>
for more information about the IHCRC or “The Dance of the Two Moons” fundraiser.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee artist Lisa Rutherford recently shared her experiences from researching textiles in December at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
In mid-January she gave a presentation in Tahlequah using a slide show about some of the artifacts she studied at the museum. For nearly two weeks, Rutherford studied pre-19th century textiles, fibers and cordage of the Mississippian culture in the collections of the NMAI as part of the museum’s “Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists.” She hoped to gain more knowledge about the techniques used by Southeastern peoples to weave materials.
Following her research visit, Rutherford was asked to facilitate a community project to share knowledge learned from the experience and research.
In January, she conducted two weaving classes and discussions for Cherokee Heritage Center employees at the CHC in Park Hill where she used twine made from jute plants to weave a skirt and other items. She said at the NMAI she saw a twine skirt that was found in a cave in Tennessee that she has replicated.
“I have replicated the skirt, but I think I can do a closer approximation of it now that I’ve seen it in person and studied the fibers up close,” she said.
She said she also had the opportunity to study artifacts from the Spiro Mounds site in eastern Oklahoma in Leflore County. The site is not a Cherokee site, but belongs to the ancestors of the Quapaw, Caddo and Osage tribes. At approximately the same time period, Cherokee people used the same twining techniques used by craftspeople at Spiro, Rutherford said.
“There Cherokee objects found at Spiro, so there was trade, there was interaction, so we know they were probably using some the same techniques,” she said.
This past summer, Rutherford worked in the Diligwa Village, a Cherokee village set in 1710, at the CHC where she learned from the other villagers on staff and also taught others how to make yellow dye from bois d’arc shavings. Rutherford and other artists used the yellow dye along with brown dye made from walnuts to dye the jute material.
The versatile Bois d’arc tree is used by Cherokee bow makers to make bows.
“So now the bow makers are saving their shavings for dye, and we’re all working together. I think that’s the way it would have been in 1710. We all had to work together and help each other out,” she said.
Rutherford is encouraging Native artists to apply for the NMAI’s “Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists.” She said it was a “valuable experience” for her and it was so much more than she expected.
“It was a remarkable experience for her as an artist to come into the collection of the Smithsonian and really bring to live the stories and the life experiences of the cultural material of the Cherokee Nation,” Museum Programs Outreach Coordinator for the NMAI Keevin Lewis said.
Lewis came to Tahlequah in January to observe Rutherford share the knowledge she gathered from Smithsonian institutions in Washington, to visit with Cherokee artists and visit the CHC.
Along with making twine skirts and bags, Rutherford is a skilled and an award-winning potter. She is also skilled at making Cherokee baskets, historic Cherokee-style clothing, beadwork, creating oil paintings, beadwork pieces and feather capes.