Museum Blog

National Eagle Repository

Posted 9/27/2011 12:09 AM by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh | Comments

Of all the animals that Native American cultures have used through the millennia, the eagle has played an especially important role. Bald and golden eagles are used for headdresses, ceremonial attire, staff, ritual whistles, and many other sacred items. Eagles are among the principal animal totems, referenced in mythic stories told by Native peoples across all of North America.   

Today in North America eagles are under constant threat, from shrinking habitat to pesticides to electrocution to poaching. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act strives to shield these magnificent birds--by limiting the collection, possession, and trade of eagles.   

The National Eagle Repository, situated at the northern edge of Denver, provides one means of ensuring the eagles' protection while offering eagles to Native religious practitioners. Eagles that have died are sent to this centralized repository, which then distributes parts and feathers to Native Americans. This agency thus plays a key role in conserving eagle populations while helping to preserve Native cultures and ensure Native peoples can fully exercise their cultural beliefs.

I recently sat down with Bernatte Atencio to get a rare behind-the-scenes look at what the National Eagle Repository does and how it works.    

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