Geronimo was a famous Apache Indian who was known as a great medicine
man and spiritual leader. For years, the Apaches, like many Native
Americans, fought U.S. troops for the right to remain on their lands.
In 1874, Geronimo and his band were captured and forcibly moved to a
reservation in San Carlos, Arizona. He escaped soon after and, for the
next several years, lived a life on the run. In 1886, he was captured
again and sent to Florida for imprisonment with the understanding that he
would eventually be permitted to return to his native Arizona. The promise
was not kept, however, and in 1894, he and a small band of men, women, and
children were relocated to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
It was while he was a prisoner of war in Fort Sill that Geronimo was
given permission from the War Department to attend a ceremonial farewell
of surviving Native American chiefs, called "The Last Pow-Wow."
The event took place in Collinsville, Indian Territory, (shortly before it
became the state of Oklahoma) from October 14-19, 1907. As a condition of
his travel, he was assigned an escort named Jack Moore, a man who would
become a good friend of Geronimo.
the five-day summit, Geronimo wore an eagle-feathered war bonnet that had
been given to him by the Comanche. After performing in a dance, Geronimo
gave his costume, moccasins, and headdress to Moore in appreciation for
his loyalty and friendship.
Years later, Moore presented the headdress and
costume to the C.W. Deming family of Oklahoma, as a thank you for their
generosity to the Native American population of Oklahoma.
Nearly a century
later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found itself investigating the
sale of this headdress that was once passed from family to family, and was
now being sold illegally over the Internet.
On September 3, 1999, the FBI received an email complaint from an alert
observer, stating that the Geronimo eagle-feather headdress was being sold
on the Internet. The headdress worn by Geronimo so many years ago at the
ceremonial farewell was for sale for one million dollars.
The seller requested that only serious international inquiries be sent, which
indicated that he was aware that it was illegal to sell eagle feathers in
the United States. The sale of eagle feathers, including those of the
golden eagle, is prohibited in the United States pursuant to the Bald
Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Protection Act, and the Lacey Act.
On September 7, 1999, an FBI Agent working undercover sent an e-mail
message to the seller, expressing interest in the war bonnet. A man acting
as the broker of the war bonnet telephoned the undercover agent on
September 8, 1999, to tell him that the war bonnet was still available,
but that the selling price had risen to $1.2 million, due to the increased
number of interested parties. The agent asked him to send him pictures of
the war bonnet, as well as any information authenticating the headdress.
The broker reiterated that the eagle feathers were illegal to sell in the United States.
Two days later, the agent received a package containing pictures of the
war bonnet. The package also contained numerous letters from the C.W.
Deming family explaining the history of the acquisition of the war bonnet.
A copy of the law 16 USC 668, The Bald Eagle Protection Act, prohibiting
the sale of the war bonnet, was attached.
The agent e-mailed the photographs of the war bonnet to a United States
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agent who positively identified the
feathers in the photograph as eagle. Between September 10 and September
23, 1999, the undercover FBI Agent engaged in numerous telephone
conversations with the broker discussing the provenance of the war bonnet.
During these discussions, the broker stated that the current owner of the
headdress was Leighton Deming, an attorney and grandson of the late C.W.
On September 23, 1999, the seller mailed a second package to the agent
which contained two other letters and a short story. One of the letters
was from Leighton Deming describing how he acquired the war bonnet from
After numerous phone conversations, it was finally decided that the
broker and Deming would sell the war bonnet to the agent for $1.2 million.
The broker would receive $500,000 for his part of the headdress sale, and
Deming would receive $700,000.
On October 12, 1999, the broker and Deming met with a FBI undercover
agent and an undercover agent from USFWS. They discussed the sale of the
war bonnet with the agents and made the sale of the headdress for $1
million. At this point both men were placed under arrest. In February
2000, Deming pleaded guilty to violation of the Bald Eagle Protection Act.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service Agent examined the war
bonnet and determined that it was composed of golden eagle feathers.
sale of the war bonnet violated the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the
Migratory Bird Protection Act, and the Lacey Act. These statutes were
enacted to ensure the survival of the American Eagle as our nation's
Hopi Eagle-Taking Brings Conflict
July 22, 2000 - NY Times
Every spring for centuries, Hopi Indians gathered fledgling golden eagles from nests perched on the red-hued cliffs of what is now northeastern Arizona and used them in religious ceremonies.
But Wupatki National Monument officials stopped the practice last year, saying it violated federal laws prohibiting taking wildlife from national parks.
The case is the latest in a string of disputes involving Indian cultural and religious traditions, the government and environmentalists.
To the Hopi, what's at stake is the essence of their religion, which is older than the 12th-century ruins their ancestors built at Wupatki.
"The practice of eagle-gathering is central to Hopi religion and cultural life," tribal chairman Wayne Taylor Jr. said. "The Hopi regard the eagles as embodying the spirits of their ancestors."
Interior Department lawyers have been considering the issue for nearly a year and hope to have a ruling before 2001, said Patricia Parker, the National Park Service's Indian liaison.
Critics say the Park Service cannot give the Hopi an exemption without giving all other tribes the same rights in other national parks and monuments.
"If the long-standing prohibitions of taking animals from parks can be waived for religious purposes of the Hopis, then how can you not waive it for the religious purposes of Navajos or Blackfeet or Quinault, or other tribes that claim they want to take wildlife from parks for traditional ceremonial, religious or even subsistence purposes?" asked Frank Buono, a retired Park Service official.
Buono is a board member of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, one of the environmental groups pressing the Park Service to stop the Hopis from gathering the eagles.
Some Indian leaders complain that environmentalists show ambivalence toward tribes. For example, they joined with the Hopi and other tribes to try to block mining on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, but opposed the Makah tribe's whale hunts in Washington state.
"There is still an anti-Indian bias about traditional native religions among a lot of people in environmental groups the same way there is generally," said Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne-Muskogee and director of the Morning Star Institute, an Indian rights group based in Washington.
"You find a lot of environmentalists who are only too happy to appropriate the words of Chief Seattle, or take the thinking of other great people of native history about the environment," she said. "There are people who are only too happy to adopt those trappings as their own and continue to disregard the living people who are related to that legacy."
The Hopi have permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to gather 40 golden eaglets a year for use in religious ceremonies, during which the birds are killed. The ceremonies are exempt from the 1962 federal law protecting golden eagles, which are not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The permits do not specify where the eagles can be taken. The U.S. Forest Service allows them to be gathered in federal forest land.
Wupatki Monument Superintendent Sam Henderson said he intervened because federal law does not exempt Hopis or other Indians from the ban on killing or capturing wildlife in the monument.
Parker said the prohibition was enforced last year because it was the first time the Hopi made a formal request to gather eaglets in the monument.
Harjo, who helped write a White House report on Indian religious freedom in 1979, said federal law has plenty of exemptions for capturing or killing animals in parks for religious, scientific, safety or other purposes. For example, Sioux tribal members are allowed to hunt for religious and subsistence purposes on part of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. They are the only people allowed to hunt there.