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The Return of Sacred Miigwans

Recently a young man (a tribal descendent) was sentenced in District Court in Grand Rapids for charges related to the selling of the feathers of Migizi (the bald eagle). Specifically, selling feathers from bald eagles, “knowing that the wildlife had been taken, possessed and transported in violation of the laws of the United States,” as stated by Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Green in the indictment. The young man pled guilty and was sentenced by the court on the charges.

This case came to closure in early November when the feathers were respectfully returned by the officers to warriors from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in a private gathering before an Elders’ lodge in the woods of the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

This two-year long case was interesting from several aspects including the necessity of educating court officials concerning the cultural significance of the Miigwans (eagle feathers) to Native Americans and the excellent cooperation of tribal and federal law enforcement officials. Natural Resources conservation officers from the Little River Band and the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indian joined with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the case.

The handling of the case and the feathers was also a tribute to cooperation, as it was done with the formal blessing of the tribal leaders and the Tribal Warriors Society, whose members received the feathers following their smudging and return. The feathers were smoked down and taken through a sweat lodge to cleanse them.

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The Elder initially receiving the feathers said he hoped that the young man had learned his lesson and would respectfully turn back to the Red Road (Native Cultural Path). He added that he hoped everyone hearing of this case would also come to understand the cultural significance to Native Americans and would be respectful of them.

The various feathers, roaches and other items are shown in these photographs. If you have information on any of them, please contact

Reprinted from Little River Band of Ottawa Indians' Currents newspaper, December 2012/January 2013 issue, with permission.