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

regards
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

Paula


Native American Symbol – Dreamcatcher

Native American Symbol:

Dreamcatcher

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Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatcher – Some consider the dreamcatcher a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures.

Dreamcatchers are an authentic American Indian tradition from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe. A dreamcatcher is a based on a hoop (traditionally of willow), on which is woven a net or web of sinew in a somewhat similar pattern to how the Ojibway tied webbing for snowshoes. A “dream-catcher” was hung in the sleeping area as a charm to protect children from nightmares. A legend holds that a dreamcatcher filters a person’s dreams, letting through the good ones and trapping bad dreams in the web. Some believe that a dreamcatcher can help us remember our dreams.

Native American Apache Indian DreamcatcherDreamcatchers are often decorated with personal and sacred items such as feathers, totems and beads. While these additions may make a dreamcatcher appealing and add to them as a work of art, it is suggested by some that such ornaments are not appropriate on dreamcatchers used for “catching dreams” as they could interfere with the spiraling motion of the web and can cause disturbing dreams.

Generally, a dreamcatcher is suspended near the place where you sleep, on the wall, or perhaps from a lampshade or bedpost.

Mandala – Sometimes misspelled mandalla or mandella, it is from the Sanskrit, circle. A mandala is a circular image or item with ritualistic geometric designs that link to and are symbolic of the universe. Used mostly in Hinduism and Buddhism, a mandala is similar to a dreamcatcher but it has no web. Instead, the circle is filled with designs or can be filled with yarn, feathers, fur and usually has feathers hanging from the bottom. A mandala is something you use as an aid in meditation or hang for prosperity and good fortune on a door or wall inside your office, home, hogan, or tipi.

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver

Native American Dreamcatcher Pendant Navajo Sterling Silver