This in one case where a lot of good intentions came together in a bad way. Back on June 4th of this year, the body of a bald eagle was found in a park in Boulder, Colorado. The eagle’s body was believed to be the result of poaching with the feathers and talons subsequently sold on the black market. Evidently, this follows a recent trend of poaching bald eagle parts all over the country where the feathers and talons can fetch a high price. As it turns out, however, this was not the reason for the animals death or mutilation.
As it turns out, a Navajo man, Darrell Pino, had received the body of the eagle from the National Eagle Repository near Denver for use in a ceremony. Pino had gone through years of paperwork to obtain the animal for use in religious ceremony. The animal was found by a hiker on the ground near a trail. The hiker reported the find to the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Although Pino had wrapped the body of the eagle in a red blanket and placed it inside a sacred tree, it is unclear how the animal ended up on the ground. My guess is that the red of the blanket may have stood out and someone climbed up there to see what it was, found a dead animal, freaked, and left it on the ground after it fell. After playing by the rules and jumping through all the proper red tape, Pino was understandably upset:
Pino performed a series of ceremonies over months honoring the eagle and preserving tail feathers and talons for other ritual uses. He then wrapped the eagle’s body in red cloth and placed it in a sacred tree in a ceremony held in May with Lakota elder Lee Plenty Wolf.
“When it first came out, it saddened my heart,” Pino said. “It’s only an animal to you, but to us it’s a relative . . . a direct link to our ancestors — a message to the Creator. This relative was brought down from the tree in a very bad way. I hope that at some point in time, our religion will be respected.”
Although I understand Pino’s frustration and genuine sadness over this event, I do not think that was a case of willful disrespect. The fault here, in my opinion, lies with communication between the DOW and the National Eagle Repository. Lets hope that the Colorado Division of Wildlife contacts the National Eagle Repository in the future in such cases. I also think that Pino needs to be more careful with where he places the body of his birds if he intends on doing the ceremony again sometime in the future. People simply do not think of Native American ceremonial practices as a first explanation when coming across the body of a mutilated bald eagle. I never would have myself, although I will in the future. I am more in line with Myron on this:
Myron Pourier, a tribal official with the Oglala Sioux, or Lakota, of South Dakota, said it isn’t the larger community’s fault it is ignorant of native culture.
“It’s our job in the Lakota nation to educate people about our way,” Pourier said.
To desecrate the grave of a bald eagle is like going to a Christian graveyard and defacing a tombstone, he said.
I am, based unfortunately on past experiences, very careful as to what I leave lying around and pick my ceremonial sites very carefully. Hopefully this was a good lesson learned all around.