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Killing bald eagles a Native ‘cultural crime’

On March 20, the Associated Press reported a man will plead guilty to killing bald eagles on the Flathead Indian Reservation, where he admitted to engaging in a “killing spree” to gather eagle feathers to “fuel the black market.”

This is not only a federal crime, but a cultural crime as well, according to data from the Southern Ute Community Safety Survey.

In my professional studies and data on views of cultural offenses (e.g., violations of Native cultural values as well as violations of Title 25 – Indians of the United States Code), I found Indians hold harsher views of such crimes than did the non-Indians in this study.

For example, a survey question that asked respondents to rate “non-Indians hunting or fishing on the reservation without a tribal permit” as zero to five (zero being “not serious,” while five was “very serious”), the mean score for the Indians was 4.32, while the mean for the non-Indians was 3.40.

Violations of Native cultural values have a much more harmful effect on the tribe and positively correlate with cultural conflict between the two groups than does general crime.

Thus, killing bald eagles is a very serious crime against Native cultural values.

The fragile nature of Indian cultures continues to be threatened in ways that may not be amenable to federal protections but may be protected by tribal law.

Julie C. Abril