Aren’t eagles endangered and isn’t it illegal to sell eagle feathers?

hello paula
i am interested in purchasing one of your smudge kits and i’m wondering what the ‘eagle’ feathers are?  are they really eagle feathers or something else.  just wondering since they’re endangered and it’s illegal to own one.

SK31-400wHi Kristi,

I answered this popular question in January of 2012. You can read it here Can Native Americans use Eagle Feathers…………..


Native American Award for Valor, Courage and Bravery

Is there a Native American symbol awarded to great warriors for valor, courage, and bravery in battle much like the Silver or Bronze Stars awarded to soldiers? If not, can you make a suggestion? Thank you very much.


Hi Wess,

A Lakota friend of mine sent me this. I hope it is helpful. You can browse our feather hair ties here. Feather Hair Ties. Paula

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


Native American Feather Hair Ornament

Hello Paula

I would like to get a feather to wear on the side of my hair – however my hair is very fine and “thinning.” I have it cut to below ears in a “bob.” In looking at feather ornaments on your site I do not see how I could fasten one into my hair – looks like most are for ponytails, etc. Also, I would like the feather not to hang down too far. Would appreciate your advice. Thank you.

Hello !

Well, we have two types of feather hair ornaments. One type is an actual feather made into a feather hair tie. This is a Lakota tradition and the hair ties we have are made by Oglala Lakotas from South Dakota. Here is an example of some of the shorter ones we have but you can click on the photo and it will take you to the page with our current selection.

If I were affixing this type of hair ornament to my hair so it would hang down on the side like we see all the time on today’s celebrity singers and dancers, I’d section off a small bundle of hair underneath, fasten the hair tie to the hair bundle near the roots with one of those tiny rubber bands and then let the rest of your hair surround the feather so it peeks out when your hair moves.

As far as what length would work for you, the best way to determine that is with a ruler and a paper cut out in the approximate shape of a feather – hold it in place and see how it looks.

Lakota Hair Ties

As far as sterling silver hair ornaments, or barrettes, yes we have some beautiful feathers but they are quite long and some are heavy, made to hold back a large hank of hair at the nape of the neck.

They are over 3″ long and would be difficult to use as you are hoping for.

Sterling Silver Feather Barrette by Carson Blackgoat over 4″ long

Sterling Silver and Turquoise Feather Barrette by Milton Vandever – over 3″ long


Native American Barrettes – Which Weight Do You Like?

When it comes to Native American barrettes, there are all styles and sizes. Many of them use a standard spring clip to fasten the embellishment to the hair. But the sterling silver barrette attached to the spring clip can vary widely in weight.

Some people like a very heavy sterling silver barrette. They might have a lot of very thick hair. Or use the barrette at the nape of the neck pulling all the hair back.

Others like a featherweight barrette. Maybe they have thin or very slick hair and don’t want the weight of the barrette to cause it to lose its grip and slip down. Or perhaps they use one barrette on each side or to just pull part of the hair back.

Whatever the reason, we all have our personal preferences and uses for barrettes and it is good to know that there are choices available. Take, for example, the popular large feather barrette.

Both of these barrettes are set on the same 2 1/2″ long spring clip.

2 1/2″ long spring clip

This substantial feather barrette, by Navajo Carson Blackgoat, is 4 1/8″ long and weighs 25 grams.

Heavy Sterling Silver Feather Barrette by Carson Blackgoat, Navajo

This lighter version by Navajo artist Milton Vandever is 3 1/4″ long and weighs 13 grams.

Lightweight Sterling Silver Feather Barrette by Milton Vandever, Navajo

Which barrette do you prefer?

More on Native American Prayer Feathers and Fans

Red Hawk Prayer Fan by Apache artist, Cynthia Whitehawk

Hi Paula,

I’m looking forward to receiving the prayer feather. If I’m not bothering you to ask, is there anything else you could tell me about this particular feather?

Many thanks,

Dave from Australia

Hi Dave

No bother at all. My pleasure. I posted a little bit about Prayer Feathers in a previous post.

The only other thing I can say about the feather fan you are receiving is that Alan Nash calls his smudge fans a Talking Prayer Feather which is from the Navajo.

Navajo Talking Prayer Feather

Many other artists of other tribes refer to them as Prayer Feathers.

Since using eagle feathers is illegal, artists use turkey feathers, either natural or hand painted to look like eagle feathers.

Lakota Prayer Feather

According to Navajo legends and teachings:

The Eagle was created to help the Dine’ with healing and guidance. Eagle plumes and feathers represent faith, hope, courage and strength. Individuals often receive eagle plumes as they make their journey in life. The plume acts as a shield as one follows the Corn Pollen way of life.

Lakota Prayer Feather


Native American Symbol – Feather

Feather as a native american symbol

Native American Symbol – The Feather

Feathers are an important part of Native American symbolism. They are used in many ways:

  • Costumes
  • Hair Ties
  • Headdresses
  • Door Blessings
  • Kachinas
  • Medicine Bags
  • Silver Jewelry
  • Shields
  • Dreamcatchers
  • Smudge Fans
Lakota Feather Hair Tie

Lakota Feather Hair Tie

Because it is illegal to use feathers from certain birds (more on this in another post), Native American artists use white feathers, usually turkey, and hand paint them to look like eagle or hawk or owl feathers. Eagle feathers are a symbol of honor.

This is a hand painted turkey feather in the style of an eagle feather; soft, tan deerskin laces; glass crow bead, solid brass beads and trade cloth; great for hair tie, horse decoration, auto mirror, ceremonial or craft work. Feather is 11 inches long from tip to wrap attachment.

Oglala Lakota Macaw Feather Hair Ties

Oglala Lakota Macaw Feather Hair Ties

Moonwalker, a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, makes smudge fans and carves a feather in the fringe of her medicine bags. From Moonwalker:

Prayer Feathers

Native Americans believed prayers and messages were carried to the Great Spirit on the wings of eagles and other fine birds.

Prayer feathers, either single or bundled are used by an individual to offer a prayer to the Great Spirit. The feathers carry your words, thoughts and feelings to the Great Spirit. Each time you look at your prayer feather, your prayers are again sent in your behalf to the Great Spirit in the Heavens.

Prayer feathers may be used for smudging or cleansing with smoke. The smoke is fanned in the 6 directions East, West, North, South, Earth and Sky cleansing an object, person or thought to the Great Spirit. Sage, cedar, sweet grass, even incense can be used for smudging.

Some personal rituals include singing while praying. It is believed singing is one way to speak with the grandfathers as well as the Great Spirit.

WIPACI (Thank you) Moonwalker

Moonwalker Prayer Whisper Medicine Bag

Moonwalker Prayer Whisper Medicine Bag

Native American Smudge Kit

Native American Smudge Kit

A smudge kit usually contains:

  • Feather
  • White Sage and/or Cedar
  • Sweet Grass in a braided stick
  • Bowl, often an Abalone Shell
  • Medicine Bag or Box to contain the kit.
Oglala Lakota Smudge Fan

Oglala Lakota Smudge Fan

Oglala Lakota Smudge Box and Fan

Oglala Lakota Smudge Box and Fan

Door Blessing

The Door Blessing has several symbols, one of which is the feathers:

  • The Medicine Stick brings positive energy.
  • The red, yellow, white and black ribbons represent the Four Directions from which all strength comes.
  • The feather represents Freedom.
  • Thoughts, Prayers, and Choices are represented by the bead circle which shows us that our thoughts return to us again and again.
  • Turquoise protects us and keeps us Positive in thought.
  • The rabbit fur is to help us keep a warm heart.
  • The fur reminds us that Mother Earth is the Giver of Life and we should walk softly.
  • The Sage Medicine Stick exists that we might all live in Love and Oneness.

Door Blessings are ideal for hanging on the door of your home, your room, your office, your tack room, anywhere you want positive light and good fortune.

Native American Door Blessing

Native American Door Blessing

Apache Sunface Kachina Shield

Apache Sunface Kachina Shield

Apache Eagle Spirit Dreamcatcher

Apache Eagle Spirit Dreamcatcher

Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise and Coral Pendant by Lester Craig

Navajo Sterling Silver Turquoise and Coral Pendant by Lester Craig

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Dreamcatcher Earrings

Navajo Sterling Silver and Turquoise Dreamcatcher Earrings

Navajo Sterling Silver and 14K Gold Feather Bracelet

Navajo Sterling Silver and 14K Gold Feather Bracelet

Hand carved and painted bone feather earrings

Hand carved and painted bone feather earrings

Hand carved and painted Navajo Kachinas with feather headresses

Hand carved and painted Navajo Kachinas with feather headresses

Cynthia Whitehawk Apache Eagle Spirit Medicine Bag

Cynthia Whitehawk Apache Eagle Spirit Medicine Bag