Man Battles to Have Confiscated Feathers Returned

October 25, 2006

Author: Andres R. Martinez

Source: The Monitor

McALLEN - The turkey feathers in Robert Soto’s porcupine brocade are nothing more than placeholders for the two golden eagle feathers they replaced.

Soto’s eagle feathers were confiscated by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent at a pow-wow on March 11 because he did not have a permit from the government to have them.

The confiscation at the pow-wow in Palmview has touched off a debate among Native American communities across the country about how they are allowed to worship.

Many, says Soto, were like him, unaware they needed permits to use feathers protected under federal laws protecting migratory birds. The only groups of people allowed to use feathers are enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe.

Soto, who is a pastor at McAllen Grace Brethren Church, is not in one of the more than 500 tribes.

"(The eagle) is a sacred bird to our people," says Soto, a Lipan Apache. "They are a symbol of strength, power and freedom."