Rule change over feathers allows Alaska Native artists to sprout wings
Perry Eaton works on his latest art work. “The Spirit of the Halibut” is the latest mask made by the Kodiak native in his Mountain View studio.
Eaton is Alutiiq. The feathers are one of the key parts to this project.
“The majority of them are turkey feathers,” Eaton said, as he explained the feathers he uses come from the Lower 48.
Artwork Eaton sells can not contain feathers from birds in Alaska. It’s been the law since the Migratory Bird Treaty Act went into effect in 1918.
That rule changes July 24, which will allow Eaton and other native artists to sell their pieces and clothes made with feathers of those birds.
“What we’re doing here is an extension of subsistence of what we’ve always, traditionally done,” said Eaton.
Native culture teaches people to use all the parts of the animal they kill. Federal allows the use of migratory birds for non-commercial purposes.
“We’ve been waiting so long,” said Patty Schwlenberg, the executive director of the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council. She helped lead the four-year effort to change the rule.
She helped lead the four-year effort to change the rule.
“The bird has given itself to you, so, you need to respect that animal, those bird parts,” Schwlenberg said.
Meanwhile, Eaton sees another benefit to the rule change.
“I think it’s really, really cool because somebody can now actually acquire something that’s more traditional,” said Eaton, without ruffling any feathers.