Cherokee leaders solidify opposition to eagle feather proposal

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
08/21/2019 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilors unanimously supported Resolution 19-049, which opposes a proposed change in federal regulations that would allow not only tribal citizens but also “all sincere religious believers” to posses eagle feathers.

“I think as Cherokees, we lead the way,” Tribal Councilor Mary Baker Shaw said during the Aug. 12 Resource Committee meeting. “I’d like to see the Council support this.”

Along with many others, Cherokee Nation had voiced its concerns with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which sought feedback online until July 16. The CN was among 532 tribes, tribal members and other individuals and organizations to respond.

“We addressed this at the (National Congress of American Indians) level, and it’s something we’re all on board with,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said.

Under current law, possession of an eagle feather is illegal, though tribal citizens are permitted to have one for religious or spiritual reasons. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was asked by pastor Robert Soto and the Washington D.C.-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to revise its existing rules in several ways that include the eagle feather expansion.

“No sincere religious believer should be banned from possessing feathers or risk criminal prosecution for simply possessing the feathers necessary to practice their faith,” the petition states.

The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 – revised in 1962 to include golden eagles – made it illegal to possess eagles and eagle parts without a permit. An exception was made “in recognition of the significance of eagle feathers to Native Americans,” according to the wildlife service, which established the National Eagle Repository in Denver to “provide Native Americans with the feathers of golden and bald eagles needed for ceremonial purposes.”

The CN’s response to the proposal noted that eagle feathers are already difficult to acquire.

“Bald and golden eagles are connected directly to our ceremonial practices, oral traditions, lifeways, clans and kinship in ways that are unique to the Nation and having access to bird feathers and parts is critical to the continued existence of the Nation,” the tribe’s comment stated.

Cherokee Patriots Honored

Council also honored three Cherokee veterans as “Cherokee Warriors” by awarding them the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism.

Navy veteran Carroll Fry, Army veteran Lorie McCoy and Air Force veteran Dan Carter all received a medal on Aug. 12.

Fry, 68, grew up in Nowata. She was introduced by then-Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden, also a Navy veteran.

“She outranks me, and she told me that a while ago,” Crittenden said. “And I’m OK with that. It’s all about service.”

A Vietnam and Desert Storm veteran, Fry entered the Navy in 1970 and retired in 1990 as a petty officer first class. At one point, she was a communications specialist involved in classified documents related to returning POW/MIA Vietnam veterans, according to the tribe.

Fry earned a myriad of medals and awards during her military career.

“I was also given a Navy commendation with my two roommates because we saved our next-door neighbor and her apartment that was on fire,” Fry said.

McCoy, of Tahlequah, served in the Army from 1992-94 in a maintenance support battalion as a vehicle mechanic. She was honorably discharged as a private first class.

Vietnam veteran Carter, who grew up in Gore, served in the Air Force from 1971-74.

A fuel specialist deployed to southeast Asia, Carter rose in rank to an E4 sergeant. He was given the Vietnam Service medal among many others.

Emergency Room Upgrade Nears Completion

At the Aug. 12 Health Committee meeting, councilors heard from Claremore Indian Hospital CEO George Valliere about an emergency room remodeling project he estimated was 95-99 percent complete.

“We’re nearing the completion of the renovation of the emergency room,” he said. “That should be completed within the next few weeks. When we do, we’re planning just something small there, have a little open house.”

Tribal Councilor Keith Austin described the upgrade as “a rebirth.”

“A renovation is an understatement,” he said. “That’s so much better than it’s ever been in the history of that place.”

Fiscal year 2019 revenues at Claremore Indian Hospital increased 20 percent over 2018, according to Valliere’s report.

He added that collections, at $20.8 million, were up $1.5 million.

“If things continue the way they have been, we should top $30 million this year,” he said.

In other business Aug. 12, the Tribal Council reappointed Tommye Sue Bradshaw Wright to the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors until August 2022.
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