By Carol Berry
The hiker reported his finding to the county sheriff’s office, which was baffled at the red wrapping. Wildlife officials suspected poaching, an autopsy was scheduled, rewards for information about the beheading were issued and, according to at least one press account, the discovery may have pointed to a “satanic sacrifice.”
“It behooves you to go out and find the right answers,” Birgil Kills Straight, of Kyle, S.D, co-founder of the Indigenous Law Institute, told those who attended a press conference July 13 at the Native American Rights Fund.
It eventually was revealed that Darrell Pino, Diné, Colorado Springs, had obtained the eagle lawfully from the National Eagle Repository near Denver, a Fish and Wildlife Service-maintained collection point for dead eagles that distributes them for traditional purposes.
Pino had held a Sweatlodge ceremony conducted by Lee Plenty Wolf, Oglala Lakota, giving thanks for the eagle and acknowledging its importance. Then, as a veteran, he was authorized to take the parts he needed for traditional purposes, after which a second Sweatlodge ceremony was held. Pino said that, as Lakota tradition dictates, he ultimately wrapped the eagle’s body in red (honoring) cloth, prayed over and smudged the eagle, and placed it in a tree.
It's still not clear what placing the eagle's body in a tree signifies. A quick Google search offered no help.
Oh, well. For more on the subject, see Dismembered Eagles in Native Religion.
Below: "The bald eagle, an integral part of tribal and cultural tradition, was the subject of misinformation and controversy after an eagle’s body, wrapped in ceremonial red cloth, and with talons, head and tail feathers removed, was found beside a hiking trail." (Photo by Carol Berry)