Many people don't know how problematic the eagle feather law really is. To possess eagle feathers, citizens must be able to legally prove their ethnicity and only individuals of certifiable American Indian ancestry enrolled in a federally recognized tribe are authorized to obtain permits. Those caught without permits face imprisonment and fines up to $25,000--for practicing their religion.
But there's a problem. Falsification of state records in what has been termed “paper genocide” has artificially decreased the true number of indigenous people in the United States and terminated the “official” existence of many tribes. Consequently, many Native Americans cannot be found on the Dawes Rolls (the major determinant of tribal enrollment and application for an eagle permit) and many tribes are unable to win federal recognition. As a result, many people lose access to eagles and the ability to practice and preserve traditional customs otherwise protected for “recognized” tribes and their members.