Can Native Americans use Eagle and Hawk Feathers in their Art?

Hi Paula

I have a few questions about dream catchers. My sister brought a couple back recently and quarantine insisted on irradiating them. That was fine until they folded all the feathers to pack them in the post! So, am I correct in assuming that you can just replace the feathers with new ones? I dont recall ever reading about any ritual observances during a dream catchers making (its a navajo one and I dont even know if dream catchers are traditional in that culture)? I dont know what kind of feathers they are – am I right that they cannot be eagle or hawk due to your laws, or are indigenes allowed to use them in their art? Is the type of feather used significant? Thanks Paula and have a nice day

Merideth from Australia

Apache Dreamcatcher with barred pea hen feathers
Hi Merdith,
Eagle,  hawk and many other types of feathers are illegal to own. Some Native Americans are allowed to use them in religious ceremony but can’t sell them alone or as part of a piece of artwork because non-registered Native Americans can’t posses them.

Click on the link below to read an article about a recent court ruling.

 Only Indians Can Use Eagle Feathers for Religious Practices, Court Rules

To obtain eagle feathers for religious ceremonies, Native Americans can’t collect their own feathers. They must get them through a Federal Repository.  We have one here in Denver which you can read about by clicking the phrase. It is very interesting.

So most NA artists use pea hen, turkey etc. and either use them as is or paint them to be faux eagle, faux hawk, owl etc.

Lakota Imitation Red-Tailed Hawk Feather
Lakota Imitation Eagle Feather

If feathers have been damaged they can be replaced with feathers that are significant to the person who owns the dreamcatcher – some use macaw, pheasant, goose……all sorts are used – it is what they are meant to represent that is important.

Dreamcatchers are usually associated with the Woodland and Plains tribes and some southwest, like Apache, but not usually Navajo, although Navajo make dreamcatcher jewelry.

Here are some more valuable resources about this topic

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Flight Feathers of Native American Birds

Permit Applications for Feather Possession

Guide to Legal and Illegal Feather Possession in the USA


5 thoughts on “Can Native Americans use Eagle and Hawk Feathers in their Art?

  1. I have been taught that if an Eagle, Hawk, Owl, ( or any other bird for that matter) presents you with a feather of theirs, you are to behold its beauty and say a Thank-You for the precious gift, because they have accepted you into their clan.You are to hold it in your left hand and proudly display it.You may then use it for medicine, or decoration depending on the situation. Bird will tell you what is the right application for it at the time… I am Black Feather Waters, Comanche & Blackfoot descendent, Portland, Oregon.

    • Beautiful……….however………….Most people are not allowed to possess feathers from eagle, hawk, owl and many other birds, so it is important to know if you have the legal right to have those feathers. If not, it is illegal even though you might have just found them on the ground. Fines can be very stiff.

      • However……………the white man has NO SAY in making rules for the original owners of this land, from whom a way of life was taken.

    • Thank you for saying this I was at a spiritual retreat and heard an eagle call I looked up and beheld the bird flying not too far above me, then I saw a movement in the air and looked down to see a perfect feather the length of my hand fall right in front of my feet. I always felt it was a gift.

  2. Pingback: Aren’t eagles endangered and isn’t it illegal to sell eagle feathers? | Native American Jewelry Tips

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