The Portland Oregonian reports that a Native American spiritual leader convicted of selling black market eagle feathers for use in tribal dance competitions was ordered today to help make an educational video urging others not to commit such crimes.
Reginald Dale Akeen of Albuquerque, N.M., was scheduled to give a videotaped statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after his sentencing for a felony violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown sentenced Akeen to 30 days of house arrest, five years of probation and 250 hours of community service to a wildlife organization. She also ordered him to pay restitution of $4,800 to a Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands conservation fund.
Akeen, 34, apologized to the court for his crime and acknowledged that he erred by following ancient indigenous laws that govern the taking of wildlife rather than the laws of the U.S. government.
Migratory bird feathers, especially the golden eagle, hold special significance to many Native Americans. The feathers are prized by ceremonial dancers, who are judged in part on their regalia and stand to make big money for winning dance competitions.
A three-year investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service found that tribal men were shooting birds of prey, including bald eagles, to feed the black market for raptor feathers. In some cases, wild mustangs were shot as bait to lure the birds into shooting range.
Court records indicate that Akeen, who used the name J.J. Lonelodge, hawked the feathers of protected birds on the powwow circuit. He was accused of selling golden eagle, anhinga and Cooper’s hawk feathers to undercover agents.
Akeen pleaded guilty last December to brokering the sale of nine golden eagle feathers through an intermediary on the Warm Springs Reservation. The feathers, taken from a juvenile bird, were turned into a fan known as a “black and white.”