Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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  • Michael Lynch, West Tennessee (2008-12)
         member, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Pat Cummins, Middle Tennessee (2004-08)
         descendant, Cherokee
  • Mark Cantrell, Middle Tennessee (2010-14)
         unknown tribal affiliation
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  • Brent A. Cox (2008-2012)
    444 Cades Atwood Road
    Milan, Tennessee 38358

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    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee

    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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    Judge opens door on eagle feathers for religious purposes by others than natives
    Salt Lake Tribune

    Judge backs Utah men in feather possession cases
    Religious freedom. The two each have Native American ties, but are not members of federally recognized tribes.

    By Pamela Manson
    The Salt Lake Tribune

    Posted: 02/18/2009 03:06:09 PM MST

    A judge ruled Tuesday that a federal ban on the possession of eagle feathers by non-Indians is too restrictive, a victory for two Utah men who have fought for a decade to use the feathers as part of their practice of Native American religion.

    The decision could lead to the return of feathers to the men, who are not federally recognized tribal members, and open the door for others like them to apply to get the feathers, according to attorney Joseph Orifici.

    "The government has to revisit its policy," said Orifici, a Holladay lawyer representing Samuel Wilgus Jr., one of the litigants.

    Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said Tuesday the government is studying the ruling and has not determined its next step.

    U.S. District Judge Dee Benson said Tuesday making non-tribal members ineligible to apply for feathers at a national repository and subjecting them to possible criminal prosecution -- the way chosen by the government to protect both eagles and the Native American culture -- puts a burden on the free exercise of religion.

    The judge also said the government failed to prove the ban was the least restrictive method possible to achieve those goals, a requirement under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The act requires that religious practices be accommodated unless a compelling governmental interest can be demonstrated.

    Benson pointed out that bald eagles have been moved off the federal list f threatened and endangered species. In addition, the judge said, there is no relevant evidence that the demand for feathers will threaten the survival of Native American religions.
    Wilgus and Raymond Hardman were convicted in separate cases of possessing feathers without a permit.

    Authorities seized 141 eagle feathers from Wilgus, an adopted member of the Paiute Indian Peak Band in southern Utah, during a traffic stop near Fillmore in June 1998, according to court records. He entered a guilty plea under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, with a condition that he could appeal, and was sentenced to probation and community service.

    Hardman, a northern Utah resident, was given a bundle of prayer feathers, which included a golden eagle feather, by a Hopi tribal religious leader in 1993 after transporting the body of his son's godfather to Arizona.

    He was charged with violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after his estranged wife, an enrolled member of the S'Kallum Tribe, reported he had the feather. He was convicted in 1999 and ordered to pay a small fine.

    Wilgus and Hardman claimed their rights were violated under the religious clause of the First Amendment, as well as the RFRA, and appealed to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The entire court eventually heard their cases, which were combined for appeal, and sent the matter back to Utah for a determination on whether possession restrictions violated the RFRA.

    Attorney Cindy Barton-Coombs, who represents Hardman, said her client believed the government was forbidding him from practicing his religion.

    "It was such a matter of deep religious belief that made Mister Hardman keep fighting," she said.

    Re: My thoughts on this

    I think this will force the government to tighten up the regulations, since even enrolled natives can get arrested for having feathers without a permit. I think the government will probably overreact maybe even end the eagle respository program. So I don't think there's any reason for anyone to celebrate yet.

    Re: Re: My thoughts on this

    I feel you do not have a clue what you are talking about

    Re: Re: Re: My thoughts on this

    Sure--and what were you talking about?

    Re: Judge opens door on eagle feathers for religious purposes by others than natives

    I was reading some more on this by a so called wacko so called indian who lives in AZ and bust a hump posting on a looney board also about tenn indians, site where I found a certain war hero who was kidnapped away from the rez and earned a degree from the school of BS the names dont worthy writing here jsut remarks on WTF has being an indiancome down to, but i guess uncle tom ahawk can write even better BS

    Re: Re: Judge opens door on eagle feathers for religious purposes by others than natives

    Yeah, if they think it's open season on eagle feathers, they're out of their minds. The government is quite likely to cut the eagle repository program--it will save money, after all, and if anyone can have feathers--what's the use? I can see that happening. Then feathers will actually be harder to get because even Indians won't have any. And, WTF, that Arapaho guy who shot an eagle for sundance is still facing jail time and fines.

    Re: Re: Re: Judge opens door on eagle feathers for religious purposes by others than natives

    FYI the way we do it is to apture an Eagle and let the Feathers come off during the time they come off and then let my Brother go. but all want to be something like a big dances with buzzards, but WTF or this I lived in a time when being indian wasnot KOOL and those that "PASSED" play gringo to the max now every looney tune on the planet wants to be play indian, heck there are germans in europe who live the roles but hey I guess that what the gringo progress has mad3e little gringos images of fort camp dogs and for the rambos and others nam war heroes you want some come get some

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