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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

November 4, 1999
Karen Miranda Gleason, 303-236-7917, x. 431
Chester T. Hamilton 303-236- 7890, x. 33

Law Enforcement Repatriates Eagle Feather War Bonnet to Standing Rock Sioux

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Law Enforcement will repatriate a historic Native American headdress at a Tribal Council meeting today at the Standing Rock Tribal Council headquarters at Fort Yates, North Dakota. The "young chief’s war bonnet," made of golden eagle feathers and dated to the mid 1920's, will be presented to Tribal Chairman Charles W. Murphy by the Service’s top law enforcement official for the Mountain-Prairie Region, Assistant Regional Director Chester T. Hamilton.

headband side view(67278 bytes) headband feathers(98229 bytes)

Although golden eagles have been protected since 1962 by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, eagle feathers and products acquired before the Act may be possessed, as long as they are not bought or sold. The Service repatriates wildlife artifacts of religious and cultural significance as part of its trust responsibility to Native American Tribes, which also includes providing assistance with wildlife management and law enforcement.



"We are very honored and grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to return an object that is central to our culture and will be cared for by our tribe in a respectful manner," wrote Chairman Murphy in a recent letter to the Service. "Thank you for your cooperation in the return of this sacred object to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe."

The war bonnet, which is intricately decorated with beadwork, ribbon, and 33 feathers from three golden eagles, was confiscated from an illegal dealer by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent during an undercover "sting" operation in Bozeman, Montana. In a coordinated effort with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens and criminal investigators, the agent posed as an interested buyer responding to a tip about a man wanting to sell an eagle feather headdress. The agent met with the seller and bought the headdress for $5800. The suspect, Donald Steven Borud of Bismarck, North Dakota, was then apprehended. Borud was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Missoula, Montana. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor count of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and was sentenced in September, 1998, to 2 years probation and ordered to pay a $7500 fine.

                                                             headband (71875 bytes)

During the investigation, it was learned that Borud had acquired the headdress as payment on a debt, from a woman who had inherited it from her father. The father, a deceased Bismarck banker, handled land and cattle transactions for members of the four bands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe during the 1920's. According to the banker’s daughter, he received the headdress as a gift from the Tribe, in gratitude for his work.

Once the headdress was no longer needed as evidence in the case, it was scheduled to be sent to the Service’s Eagle Repository in Denver, from which feathers are distributed to members of federally recognized Tribes for religious purposes. However, Service law enforcement officials felt it should instead be returned to the Tribe from which it originated. The Regional Director agreed, and plans were then made with Tribal officials to repatriate the item.

"The Service has long recognized the importance of eagles to Native Americans, and we work closely with the tribes on these and other wildlife enforcement issues," Hamilton said. "Our work to prevent profiteering in eagle items and feathers has restored a sacred headdress to the Standing Rock Sioux and demonstrated our commitment to stop illegal wildlife trafficking."

Last July, Service wildlife inspectors and special agents facilitated the international repatriation of a sacred "Ghost Dance"shirt to the Wounded Knee Survivors Association, a group of Lakota Sioux who negotiated its return from the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum in Scotland to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Plans are also underway by the Division of Law Enforcement to repatriate a confiscated headdress and pair of moccasins certified as having belonged to the family of Chief Big Foot, a Native American leader who perished at Wounded Knee.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps State, Tribal, and foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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