Feds collect dead eagles to help Native traditions

04/05/2010 07:40 AM
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."


03/15/2017 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Discover your family history and Cherokee ancestry at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 16th annual Cherokee Ancestry Conference June 9-10 at the Tribal Complex. The event provides participants with the tools to research their ancestry with Cherokee historical records and features a variety of discussion topics, including historical events before and after the removal, inter-tribal relationships and advancements in social media and its effect on genealogy research. Participants will also learn about various CN records available online as well as resources available in their local area for Cherokee ancestry research. A discount is given to those who register before June 3. Pre-registration is $60 for Cherokee National Historical Society members and $75 for nonmembers. The deadline is June 3. Registrations after June 3 are $70 for CNHS members and $85 for nonmembers. The Cherokee Ancestry Conference will be held in the Osiyo Room at the Tribal Complex. It is located at 17725 S. Muskogee Ave. in the same building as Restaurant of the Cherokees. For more information, including accommodations and registration, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6162, or email <a href="mailto: ashley-vann@cherokee.org">ashley-vann@cherokee.org</a>.
03/09/2017 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Cherokees from March 31 to April 2.   For the fourth consecutive year, the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering to host Cherokee Days at the museum, which is free to attend. “We have established an excellent partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian that annually celebrates the shared history and heritage of the Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This event is a unique showcase and educational opportunity focused on our tribal lifeways. Our artisans, culture keepers and historians from the federally recognized governments of the Cherokee are able to come together as family and share our rich story that is so prominent in America’s history.”  Cherokee Days shares the history of the Cherokees through a timeline exhibit, live cultural art demonstrations and cultural performances. Among the art demonstrations are pottery making, basket weaving, carving and textiles. “You will learn the tribal stories of the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee. Our history is interwoven in the stories of survival, enrichment and the golden years,” UKB Principal Chief Joe Bunch said. “Cherokee Days at the Smithsonian promises to be a highly informative and enlightening learning experience. We have a wonderful opportunity to share our unique story and our culture with thousands of visitors in Washington, D.C.” As part of the event, there will be a make-and-take experience that provides children an opportunity to create traditionally inspired Cherokee items. “Cherokee Days is a unique opportunity for visitors and guests to experience the rich culture and history of the Cherokee people," Eastern Band Principal Chief Patrick Lambert said “At a time where there is increasing demand to learn more about the First Americans, working together the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee weave an incredible experience in the heart of the nation's capital. We look to not only showcase our historical Cherokee values, we want to show how we have evolved and retained our culture in a modern world.” The Cherokee Phoenix will also have a booth at the museum with subscription forms during the three-day event. Those unable to attend can watch by visiting <a href="http:www.CherokeeDays.com" target="_blank">http:www.CherokeeDays.com</a>.  The site provides a detailed agenda of daily activities and performances, access to information and photos from each tribe’s social media accounts and live streaming throughout the event.
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
03/07/2017 09:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Vivian Cottrell has shared her knowledge of basket making at the Cherokee Arts Center for the past two months. Specifically, she taught “the old Cherokee traditional basket style of double weave” using river cane. “It’s our old traditional Cherokee style of weaving, and I am trying to teach it to others,” she said. “I’ve been weaving for approximately 45 years, since I was 13. My mother taught me, and she was also a (Cherokee) National Treasure. Her name was Betty Scraper Garner.” Cottrell, of Flint Ridge, said for the past four or five years she has been studying river cane – how to split it, peel it and dye it – as her Cherokee ancestors did in the old Cherokee Nation in eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and western North Carolina. There the cane was abundant along the region’s many rivers. Her home is near the Illinois River, which allows her to walk to the river to gather cane and other basket-making materials. “And over that time I’ve also been weaving it, and once I felt comfortable...then I was able to pass that on. It was very important for me...to pass that knowledge on to others,” she said. Cottrell said she learned from her mother the importance to pass on her knowledge, so she recently took advantage of a CN program that recruits Cherokee National Treasures to teach classes to share their artistic skills. Cottrell said Cherokee people used double-weave baskets for storing and carrying items and are known for creating double-weave or double-wall baskets. The double-weave style is “labor intensive,” she said. A double-weave basket is two baskets with one inside the other, woven together at the rim. The weaver begins at the base of the inside basket and works upward to the rim. At the rim, the cane is bent downward, and the outside is woven from the top to the base, which makes the basket sturdier. Candice Byrd said she had “foundational knowledge” on how to make a double-weave basket having studied with Cherokee National Treasures Bessie Russell and Shawna Morton Cain. Byrd said she makes round-reed baskets where buck brush, honeysuckle reed or commercial reed is used, however, she said she wanted to study under Cottrell because she admires her basket-making work. “I’ve seen it at art shows, I’ve seen it at Cherokee Art Market, and I wanted to learn from her how she did her technique on how to do the double woven because in involves a lot of counting and it’s very specific,” she said. “It’s very hard to do, and it’s not something we see as often in these parts, as often as we seen it with the Eastern Band of Cherokees. I think it’s important that we have basket weavers who know different types of techniques.” Cottrell said she did not expect her students to weave an entire basket in one day, but as they gained experience they began to weave faster. Some of her students made three or four baskets in two months. Sally Briggs said she was glad to be invited to learn with Cottrell. She also knew how to weave baskets using various types of reeds, but learning how to make a Cherokee double-weave basket was something she has wanted to learn for years, she said. “I’ve never accomplished this basket until now,” she said. “I think, the (Cherokee) National Treasures and the Cherokee Nation, it was something they wanted to do to encourage more people to learn this basket and to make it.” She said she once tried to learn how to make a river cane, double-weave basket by reading a book but wasn’t successful. “It took Vivian teaching it to me because there are several intricate points in it, and it is a more difficult basket than what I was used to doing. So, it has been a fabulous opportunity to learn something that is one the Cherokee’s oldest style of baskets,” Briggs said.
03/06/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies has set the 45th annual Symposium on the American Indian for April 10-15 in the University Center at NSU’s Tahlequah campus. This years theme is “Indian Givers: Indigenous Inspirations,” and the event will include the return of the NSU Powwow. According to the symposium’s website, the symposium “will focus on the many ways in which American Indians have contributed to mainstream, western culture through art, literature, government and other areas of the humanities.” The symposium’s film series will kick off the week with two screenings. “Violet” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 10 and “Medicine Woman” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 11, both in the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center’s auditorium. The opening ceremony is set for 9:30 a.m. on April 12 where the Native American Student Association will welcome guests with comments from Center for Tribal Studies Director Sara Barnett and NASA President and Cherokee Nation citizen Jacob Chavez. The ceremony will also include a presentation of colors from the CN Color Guard, the Miss Native American NSU Crowning Ceremony and a special presentation from the Wewoka High School students and first year students of Maskoke Seminole Language class. Several keynote speakers will be at the symposium including CN citizen Dr. Jeff Corntassel, associate professor and graduate advisor in the School of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria; Jacklyn Roessel, Navajo, founder of Grown Up Navajo and former education and public programs director at the Heard Museum; and more. The symposium will end with the NSU Powwow on April 15. The day will begin at 2 p.m. with a Gourd Dance, dinner at 5 p.m. and the Grand Entry/Intertribal powwow from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.
03/06/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday March 9, 2017 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For further information about the event, please contact the Language Program at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487. Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga Anvyi 9, 2017, ganvsulvi 12:30 p.m. adalenisgi 4 p.m. igohida. Na anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Nanivanitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani aledodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi. Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi: Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv (918) 453-5151; John Ross (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487.
02/27/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes Language Committee will be hosting a two-day Language Summit April 12-13 at Northeastern State University. The summit will run concurrently with NSU’s annual Symposium of the American Indian. The summit’s theme is “Breaking the Inhibitions” and topics will focus on overcoming inhibitions that stand in the way of successful language learning among tribal communities, challenges of creating adequate social spaces for language learners and dealing with generational trauma caused by government policies that suppressed Indigenous languages. The keynote speaker for the summit will be Dr. Colleen Fitzgerald, professor of linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington and National Science Foundation Program Director for Documenting Endangered Languages. Entry to all summit sessions is free and open to the public. However, due to limited seating, attendance for the keynote luncheon will be capped at 70 attendees. Tickets are required for entry to the keynote. Tickets will be $20 each and include a BBQ buffet meal. Melanie Frye, Seminole Nation language education specialist and president of the Inter-Tribal Council Language Committee, said she encourages all who can to attend. “Our languages are the sacredness that holds our cultures together and helps the cultures and peoples flourish. Our languages allowed us to converse with one another, govern ourselves, perform our ceremonies and teach our youth. The peoples of each tribal nation are meant to be the caretakers of their language and culture. We all need to work as a collective in order to find ways to save our languages. We are coming together to share our ideas and to learn more ways to fight language loss amongst our respective nations. We would like for you all to join us at the 2017 Inter-Tribal Council Language Summit,” Frye said. For more information, email Teresa Workman, Chickasaw Nation language manager, at <a href="mailto: teresa.workman@chickasaw.net">teresa.workman@chickasaw.net</a> or Melanie Frye at <a href="mailto: frye.m@sno-nsn.gov">frye.m@sno-nsn.gov</a>. A flier and registration form for the summit may be downloaded at <a href="http://www.fivecivilizedtribes.org" target="_blank">www.fivecivilizedtribes.org</a>. Make checks payable to “ITC Language.” Bring the registration forms and checks to the first day of the summit. Receipts will be provided.