Eagle bodies, parts for Indian rites are collected, sent from Colo. morgue | VailDaily.com

Eagle bodies, parts for Indian rites are collected, sent from Colo. morgue

Electa Draper
The Denver Post
Joe Amon/The Denver PostDennis Wiist, a specialist at the National Eagle Repository in northeast Denver, looks for a spot to hang eagles ready to be sent out in one of the center's two freezers. Below is a headdress constructed of adult golden-eagle feathers at the repository

For some Americans, practicing their religion requires a federal permit and a long wait for a controlled substance – eagle parts.

The National Eagle Repository, Building 128 at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, is a one-of-a-kind religious-supply house that processes about 2,000 dead golden and bald eagles a year for American Indian rituals.

Under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 and amendments, an eagle may not be taken or killed – not even a loose feather may be picked up. Only dead eagles can be salvaged – and only by the federal government.

The bald and golden eagles at the northeast Denver repository have been found dead in the wild, or they come from zoos or licensed rehabilitators.

The eagle remains are shipped frozen to the center.

“The majority are in bad condition,” said supervisor Bernadette Atencio. “These birds come in from all over the country. These birds go out to all over the country.”

A two-person staff fills orders for the feathers, heads, talons and whole eagles used by many of the 500 federally recognized American Indian tribes.

About 6,000 orders are waiting to be filled at the repository, Atencio said.

“There is a lot of red tape for Native Americans to practice their religion using eagles. It is a very big hindrance,” said Myron Pourier, a cultural-affairs official with the South Dakota Oglala Sioux tribe, or Lakota.

Demand for the limited supply of eagles is high, especially among Plains, Navajo and Pueblo Indians.

“The repository takes a bad rap because of the time it takes to fill an order,” Atencio said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work we do to fill an order.”

For more of this Denver Post story: http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13242945

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