Working with Tribes
Southwest Region

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Working with Tribes in the Southwest Region   HotTopics

Native American Policy

The Native American PolicyPDF. of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service articulates the general principles that guide our government-to-government relationships with Indian Tribes in the conservation of fish and wildlife resources. The conservation values and partnerships that we share with Indian Tribes help the Service to accomplish its mission and fulfill our Federal and Departmental trust responsibilities to Native Americans.

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Native Amercian Policy signing ceremony

Native American Policy Signing Ceremony January 20, 2016. Photo credit: USFWS.

Revised Policy Strengthens Service–Native American Tribal Collaboration for Conservation of Shared Natural Heritage

January 2016
Native American leaders and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) officials gathered today to recognize new measures to strengthen the agency’s 20-year-old policy guiding government-to-government relations between tribes and the agency. Service Director Dan Ashe signed the updated Native American Policy (NAP) during a Washington, D.C., ceremony attended by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean and numerous tribal representatives. The Service manages lands and resources of great importance to tribes.

Sixteen tribes worked with Service representatives for more than two years to create the revised policy. Tribal representation on the NAP Team includes members from the: Cherokee Nation, Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine of Fort Belknap, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Native Village of Emmonak, Navajo Nation, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Penobscot Indian Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, and Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Learn more...
View additional images from the ceremony.
Federal Register Notice

International Visitors Tour Successful Natural Resource Conservation Projects on Tribal Lands

Diamondback rattler inside Prairie dog hole
A highlight for the International visitors was seeing a western diamondback rattlesnake tucked inside a prairie dog hole. Credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Southwest Region worked with the U.S. Department of State to provide a tour of Natural Resource Conservation Projects on Tribal lands for seven International visitors touring sites in New Mexico. Traveling from Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru, these visitors were looking for opportunities to study indigenous communities in the United States and to see the tribal trust relations between the tribes and the Federal government. To meet this request, the FWS assisted in arranging a tour of the Pueblo of Santa’s bosque and wilderness areas on June 18, 2015. These Tribal lands feature several successful Tribal Wildlife Grant (TWG) projects. In addition to the successful TWG projects, the Pueblo has also been involved in a many other cooperative projects (i.e. Safe Harbor Agreement) in partnership with the FWS benefiting threatened and endangered species (e.g. silvery minnow and southwestern willow flycatcher).​

wild turkeys on Santa Ana Pueblo
Wild turkeys reintroduced to the Pueblo of Santa Ana bosque area, with support from a FWS TWG, were seen at the bosque during the group’s visit. Credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

During the tour of the Pueblo’s Tribal lands, the visitors were shown how telemetry equipment was used to track collared deer and pronghorn in the wild. The visitors also learned about installment of water catchments devices and habitat restoration sites, which included invasive species removal and replanting of native vegetation. Discussions about prescribed burns and habitats being impacted by climate change and decreased water levels were also presented.

While in New Mexico, the group also coordinated with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to visit several Native American schools and the Pueblo of Isleta, and the Pueblo of Acoma. Prior to stopping in New Mexico, the group visited Washington D.C. and several tribes in Oklahoma, and Washington State.

Visit the Pueblo of Santa Ana’s website to learn more about these natural resource management programs. 


Native youth at valle de Oro
The crew poses in front of their mural. Photo credit: USFWS.

Native American Urban Youth Corps Devote Time to Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge Working on Conservation Projects

In partnership with the Conservation Legacy, La Plazita Institute, Inc. and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed a conservation service project for a field crew of 8 Native American youth participants in October 2014 at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a $25,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the La Plazita Native American Urban Corps was formed with the purpose of providing learning opportunities to Native Youth ages 16 to 25 as they work on conservation projects on Tribal and Ancestral lands and waters. At Valle de Oro NWR the crew was involved in a variety of important tasks including building trails to groundwater monitoring wells, clean-ups, community outreach and they even designed and painted a mural.

Learn more...
Visit the Friends of Valle de Oro NWR Facebook page to view crew photos...

Visit Partner Sites

La Plazita Institute
Conservation Legacy
Bureau of Indian Affairs


Non-eagle feather fans
A wide variety of feathers are important in Native American
cultural and religious practices. Left to Right: Woodpecker feathers on rattle, American kestrel tail fan, Red-tailed hawk fan, Anhinga tail fan with macaw feather, Scissor-tailed flycatcher fan, Red-shafted flicker tail fan. Photo credit :USFWS.

Non-eagle Feather Repositories Receive Grants from Fish & Wildlife Service

April 2014
Two non-eagle feather repositories established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) Southwest Region have been awarded Service migratory bird program grants to assist in providing legally obtained bird feathers and parts for Native American cultural, ceremonial and religious needs.

Learn more...
Read more about the non-eagle feather repositories





Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and Refuge Host Bat Blitz

Ozark big-eared bat
Found in the Ozark Highlands and Boston Mountains ecoregions of northeastern Oklahoma and northwestern and north-central Arkansas, the Ozark big-eared bat is a medium sized bat with distinctively large ears. Photo credit: Richard Stark / USFWS.

August 2013
The Ozark Plateau National Wildlife Refuge, in cooperation with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, hosted the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s 12 Annual Bat Blitz, July 28 – August 1, 2013. A bat blitz is a coordinated, intensive bat survey designed to sample the bat community in an extensive area. About 100 people participated in this year’s bat blitz. Ten teams were divided up into field crews of about 10 each to conduct the surveys. Participants surveyed the bat community in the Ozark Highlands of northeastern Oklahoma, including the refuge, Wildlife Management Areas of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and lands owned by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the City of Tulsa, and The Nature Conservancy.  Hundreds of bats of nine different species were captured during the Bat Blitz, including the federally-listed endangered Ozark big-eared and gray bat.   Experienced bat researchers served as team leaders at each netting site and supervised the work of the field crews. This cooperative blitz is just one example of how the Southwest Region and our Tribal partners do work together to achieve mutual conservation goals.

View the Cherokee Nation Video of the Bat Blitz



Non-Eagle Feather Repositories Established in Southwest

July 2013
(Southwest Region – Arizona and Oklahoma) After a successful two-year pilot, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Southwest Region issued a permit enabling a non-eagle repository and distribution effort to continue on a permanent basis. The pilot was first approved in an effort to assist in meeting an unfilled need by Native Americans for feathers and other parts of migratory birds other than eagles for religious and cultural practices and beliefs.

In 2010, the Service’s Southwest Region established the pilot in partnership with the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, in Cyril, Oklahoma, and Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Both partners have successfully administered their facilities and achieved our mutual goals.

Over the two-year period of operation, the Oklahoma and Arizona Repositories have successfully distributed hundreds of feathers, parts and whole bird species – ranging from anhinga to red-tailed hawks – to Native Americans across the country representing more than 200 Tribes.

The Southwest Region continues to work with six different tribes to establish tribally managed eagle aviaries. The Region also continues to work with the Service’s National Eagle Repository to provide eagle feathers, parts and whole birds for cultural purposes. To learn more about our partnerships and collaborative work with tribes, visit our website at

Learn more about Requesting Non-Eagle Feathers
Learn more about Donating and Sending Items to the Repositories

Learn more about the non-eagle feather repositories at or by contacting the Service’s Migratory Bird Office at 505/248-7882, or by email at

For more information on SIA in Oklahoma, visit:
To learn about Liberty Wildlife in Arizona, visit:

For more information on how to obtain eagle feathers from the National Eagle Repository, visit:


Southwest Region Awards Three Tribal Wildlife Grants

May 2013
For the Southwest Region, a total of 18 TWG proposals were received during the FY 2013 request for proposals, representing a funding request of $3,342,735. After a competitive scoring and ranking process, the top three proposals to be awarded are:


Hopi Tribe ($200,000)
Ecology of Golden Eagles on Hopi Lands. This ongoing study will assist in the Tribes continued efforts in studying the golden eagle ecology within the southwest and the Colorado Plateau, via the use of satellite tracking and monitoring of juvenile survivability and dispersal within the Colorado Plateau.

Navajo Nation ($200,000) Golden Eagle Aviary for the Navajo Nation. Expanding upon the Navajo Nation’s Zoo, this funding will allow the Nation to add an additional aviary that will aid the Zoo in furthering its mission by providing a home for more than 20 injured eagles that need a permanent home.


Jemez Pueblo ($200,000) Mule Deer and Elk: Habitat and Movements in Rapidly Changing Forests. This project will allow the Pueblo to further understand the seasonal movements of the deer and elk herds, identification of sensitive areas which will be critical to protect, and a greater understanding of the population size.

For current information and forms on this year’s Tribal Wildlife Grant, please visit our National website , or contact the Southwest Region’s Native American Liaison, Joe Early, at, or 505-248-6602. For additional information on all TWG award recipients, please see the national news release.


The Comanche Nation Ethno Ornithological Initiative

SIA members and USFWS employees pose for photograph.  

From left to right: LaDonna Harris, Bill Voelker, Director of SIA, Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest Regional Director USFWS, Joe Early, NAL USFWS and Troy - Co-Director of SIA, pose for a picture after the signing of the Non-Eagle Feather Repository MOA. Photo credit: L. Whittle, USFWS.

Establishment of the First Non-Eagle Feather Repository

(Albuquerque, New Mexico) Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service), in cooperation with the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, established a two-year pilot, non-eagle feather repository to provide Native Americans with a permitted source to obtain non-eagle feathers from federally regulated migratory birds for religious and cultural use. For decades Native Americans have used various natural resources and wildlife for subsistence, as well as for cultural and religious purposes. Feathers remain one of the most sought after items by tribal cultural and religious practitioners. To assist in legal acquisition of federally regulated migratory bird feathers, the Service established the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado. This repository serves as a legal source of eagles and eagle feathers for qualified, federally enrolled, tribal members for use in religious ceremonies. At one time, this repository also distributed other protected and regulated migratory birds, like hawks and falcons. However distribution of these non-eagle species was discontinued in the late 1990s. Since then, the Service has looked for ways to help meet tribal needs for non-eagle feathers. In cooperation with the Comanche Nation, the Service is issuing a permit to establish the first Native American-managed non-eagle feather repository. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and a permit were signed today enabling the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative (SIA) based in Cyril, Okla., to receive and distribute regulated migratory bird feathers, deceased birds and parts from zoos, falconers, rehabilitators and other permitted sources to federally enrolled tribal members across the country. Learn more...


Dr. Tuggle and Megan Mosby pose for photo  
Dr. Tuggle and Megan Mosby, Executive Director, Liberty Wildlife, at the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society Southwest Region Conference, Phoenix, AZ. Photo credit: Joe early, USFWS.

Two-year Pilot Program Provides Opportunity to Establish Non-Eagle Feather Repositories.

The Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative (SIA) based in Cyril, Okla., became the first permitted and tribally managed non-eagle feather repository in the country. Now in cooperation with Liberty Wildlife Rehabilitation Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona, a second repository is permitted. Under the agreement established through a two-year pilot, these entities will work together and with the Service to assist Native Americans throughout the country to lawfully acquire migratory birds, their parts and feathers for religious and cultural purposes.

Learn more....
Questions and Answers

Read more about this program at Native American Connections


June 2,, 2009 — A journey inside the facility and an intimate look at the Eagles and other Raptors of the world currently living at Sia. Also included in the video is an honoring ceremony for the Region 2 USFWS Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, who has been an active supporter of Sia's endeavors. Credit: SIA. (Time: 9 min.)














More Than $7 Million Awarded to 42 Native American Tribes
in 16 States for a Wide Range of Conservation Work



Contact the Southwest Region Native American Liaison:
Joe Early

Joe Early
500 Gold Ave. SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102

Non eagle feather repository

Eddies PublicationVisit the
Eddies Site.
This edition


Indian Arts & Crafts BoardIndian Arts & Crafts Board


Tribal Fisheries Commission logo

Southwest Tribal Fisheries Commission


Non-Eagle Feather Repository Receives National Award
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the 2011 Partners in Conservation Awards to 17 organizations who have achieved exemplary conservation results with community engagement and local partnerships. This year’s awards recognize more than 500 individuals from all 50 states and include representatives from Tribes, local communities and states, other Federal agencies, business and industry, nonprofit institutions, and private landowners. The awards also include 150 outstanding Interior employees who are helping to advance important conservation initiatives are also recognized this year.
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Last updated: November 4, 2016