Endangered species question


Mar 2, 2003
Hamer, SC
A customer brought in an american eagle feather to be framed for her church. She stated that an elderly member of their church had died recently and on his deathbed, he gave the feather to his church. The elderly member was a native american indian who apparently had been awarded the feather as a ceremonial honor which was highly valued.
Brief research indicates that native american indians are allowed to possess eagle feathers for ceremonial purposes. It is illegal for others to possess endangered species artifacts.
My question is regarding the legality of the church retaining possession of this feather as well as my liability if I framed the feather.
The church has native american indian members but apparently would not be considered an indian organization.
Any info would be appreciated.
Boy, that's a tough one. I would suggest that you get some legal advice or the church gets in touch with a lawyer versed in Native American law and see what the options would be in a case like you describe.

You might try contacting William Parker through PPFA or Decor. He was out here teaching the CPF recertification class last March and covered this issue. Yes, there are some things that you need to know about it - both in framing and for your legal protection. Diane Day wrote an article on framing feathers in the April, 2001 issue of Picture Framing Magazine.

Hope this helps.
Agree to the legal advice. Once a bobcat was killed when it somehow encountered the implement on a tractor being pulled by a farmer. I don't recall all the details, but the dead animal was taken across state lines to be stuffed or something and it caused one **** of a legal mess for its possessor.

I am completely pro conservation of wildlife, but this is an example of how stupid the "wheels of justice" can be. Don't become ground up by them.
You best RUN. It is leagal for Native Americans to have the feathers but even they are required to have proper transfer papers. While they are trying to delist the great birds I believe it still hasn't gone through. The penalty can be 10 years for a feather. I grew up on The Flathead Indian reservation. I taught traditional beadwork and did restoration work on many items. They must supply paperwork for you to even have it in your posession. Jeff
I, personally, would not accept the job. Discretion, valor and all of that stuff apply here This is not a time of much reason or great wisdom and remember that a legal opinion is just an opinion.

Jack Cee
Well I woudln't frame it now that you posted here for the whole world to see. Otherwise it seems like a rather harmless request.
Otherwise it seems like a rather harmless request.
You'd think so, wouldn't you?

I framed one of these years ago. It came to me accompanied by all sorts of tribal documents which almost caused me to exclaim, "You're kidding, right?"

Fortunately, I realized it was no joke.

Follow the rules and avoid a couple of consecutive life sentences in a federal pen.
Wow, what a dilema

So, someone has posession of this feather - they could ATG tape it to the wall, or maybe just stick it in their hair like their ancestors may have?

But if you want to encapsulate it to be preserved for many future generations, you have problems?

Bugger that!

Where does the buck stop here - with he who hangs it or with he who made it hang-able - on instructions from the hanger?
Possession is a violation of federal law. The law doesn't discuss conservation issues.

If you are walking through the woods and see an American Eagle feather (a real possibility around here) and you pick it up and stick it in your cap, you are in violation of the law.

There is probably some basis in common sense that's long since lost.
True confession time:

I've done it. I sew-mounted around the beaded shaft and put it in a shadow box.

Anubody else want to 'fes up?

Man, I would have never second guessed framing an eagle feather, since I'm sure eagles lose feathers all the time, and possessing a feather doesn't mean you killed the bird to get it. Yikes, if you are just the framer, how could you get in trouble for it? Did the stuffer of the bobcat get in trouble for stuffing it? It just seems like a stretch. I would frame it and just not put my sticker on the back. I would be more concerned with framing it with respect to the Native American traditions.

So if I find an eagle feather in my yard, I can't keep it? What if a bobcat attacks an eagle, can you kill the protected bobcat to save the protected eagle?
You don't suppose the FBI monitors this forum, do you?

I've got my defense ready ... I thought it was a feather from a turkey vulture. Really.

Originally posted by framinzfun:
What if a bobcat attacks an eagle, can you kill the protected bobcat to save the protected eagle?
Only if you bludgeon it to death with a manatee.

I have stuff in my posession that was taken from "legally harvested" animals, but is illegal to sell, though I don't think is illegal to possess. Oddly, if the aforementioned product were to be manufactured into a finished product by the same folk that harvested it, the resulting product would be perfectly legal to buy and sell on the open market. Kinda makes you wonder.

Kit, we all know it's just a dyed turkey feather.
The odds are very good that it is not really an Eagle feather.

Go to the library and compare it to some pictures before you get all in a twist.

If it turns out to not be an eagle feather, then you have a different dilemma.
I would contact the state department of natural resources and ask them. Tell them that this issue was discussed among industry professionals and that you would like to know the legalities involved. Should they respond that you can have nothing to do with handling the piece, return the feather and prepare a framing package that would allow the customer to insert the feather at thier location. The feather mount can be as simple as a hole, slot, etc. that the shaft of the feather can be slipped into.
The problem with the bobcat is that it was transport across state lines. It is illegal to transport endangered species, dead or alive, across state lines without a permit. I don't remember the name of the federal act that covers this, but I know we studied it in Wildlife 101 when I was going to college for Natural Resources.
Please, never assume that the laws will make sense or that ignorance of them will constitute an adequate defense.
America, what a country!

I have framed dozens of feathers over the years. The kind of feathers they were I'm not really sure. I'm not an expert on birds.

Come to think of it, the last one I did was an eagle feather. It was presented to my customer when her son, a Cherokee Indian was killed in Iraq. He was a Guardsmen who's full time job was a city police officer. When she picked up the shadowbox she was with two Police Officers who came to see the presentation. I don't think there was a dry eye in the store.

I'll frame them and take my chances.
From the Bald Eagle Protection Act:


Prohibitions. The Act imposes criminal and civil penalties on anyone (including associations, partnerships and corporations) in the U.S. or within its jurisdiction who, unless excepted, takes, possesses, sells, purchases, barters, offers to sell or purchase or barter, transports, exports or imports at any time or in any manner a bald or golden eagle, alive or dead; or any part, nest or egg of these eagles; or violates any permit or regulations issued under the Act. A criminal conviction requires that the violator acted knowingly or with wanton disregard of the consequences. According to the Act, the criminal penalty is a maximum $5,000 fine or one-year imprisonment, or both, doubled for subsequent convictions, but the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, as amended in 1987, increases maximum fines significantly. Each prohibited act is a separate violation. One-half of the criminal fine, but not to exceed $2,500, must be paid to whoever gives information leading to conviction. The civil penalty is a maximum fine of $5,000 per violation, with each violation a separate offense. Any livestock grazing agreement on federal land held by a person convicted under this Act is subject to immediate cancellation. § 668.

The Act was passed in 1940. President Clinton signed an religious exception to the act for Native Americans in 1994.

Now that we all piped up with our opinions, does that put you in the position of a violator who acted knowingly or with wanton disregard of the consequences?
Now that we all piped up with our opinions, does that put you in the position of a violator who acted knowingly or with wanton disregard of the consequences?
Now that they have read the law it does.
Here's a thought.

If it is not illegal for a Native American to own a feather, have them to bring it in during the design phase. They can then KEEP IT IN THEIR POSSESSION until the frame is cut and the assembly is ready. Then the 'owner' of said feather can bring it back and remain in the store during the assembly phase of the job.

You as the framer never possessed it.
In the case I presented to start this topic, the original owner (a Native Averican) probably had a legal right to possess the feather. On his deathbed, he gave the feather to his church which probably has no legal right to possess the feather under federal law.
I am sure the church has no desire to exhibit an item which is illegal for them to possess.
Based on the info presented by those who posted, I plan to decline this framing job and inform the church of the possible legal issues. They can then decide if they wish to proceed by contacting another framer and/or legal opinions.
Thanks for all the help.
A few years ago I visited the Queen Charlotte islands of BC canada. There we so many Bald Eagles for my viewing pleasure and I snapped as many photos as I could. What a beautiful bird!
I later heard that there was a problem with over population of the bird there so they caught some and moved them to Montana.

As for your delema.. I don't know.. just like to talk about the animals
That is probably a wise thing, Woodsharper. The fellow who owned it in first place probably didn't have the right to give it to the church anyway...unless he lives on an Indian Reservation and the church is on the reservation as well...may want to check on that, as a thought.
I do know that if you had it in your posession and on display and a warden or some sort of official saw it, you could be arrested. Yes, you didn't kill the eagle or endangered species, but can you prove it.(I have a friend who is a DNR official here in Wisconsin, and we have discussed this matter...)