225. Final Report of the Alaska Natives Commission, May1994
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347 224. Distribution of Eagle Feathers for Indian Religious Purposes April 29, 1994 President Clinton signed this memorandum in the presence of tribal leaders at the White House. It was a clear indication of the president’s policy to recognize and protect Indian religious practices. Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies Eagle feathers hold a sacred place in Native American culture and religious practices . Because of the feathers’ significance to Native American heritage and consistent with due respect for the government-togovernment relationship between the Federal and Native American tribal governments , this Administration has undertaken policy and procedural changes to facilitate the collection and distribution of scarce eagle bodies and parts for this purpose. This memorandum affirms and formalizes executive branch policy to ensure that progress begun on this important matter continues across the executive branch. Today, as part of an historic meeting with all federally recognized tribal governments, I am directing executive departments and agencies (hereafter collectively “agency” or “agencies”) to work cooperatively with tribal governments and to reexamine broadly their practices and procedures to seek opportunities to accommodate Native American religious practices to the fullest extent under the law. As part of these efforts, agencies shall take steps to improve their collection and transfer of eagle carcasses and eagle body parts (“eagles”) for Native American religious purposes. The success of this initiative requires the participation, and is therefore the responsibility, of all Federal land managing agencies, not just those within the Department of the Interior. I therefore direct each agency responsible for managing Federal lands to diligently and expeditiously recover salvageable eagles found on lands under their jurisdiction and ensure that the eagles are promptly shipped to the National Eagle Repository (“Repository”). To assist agencies in this expanded effort, the Secretary of the Interior shall issue guidelines to all relevant agencies for the proper shipment of eagles to the Repository. After receiving these guidelines, agencies shall immediately adopt policies, practices, and procedures necessary in accordance with these guidelines to recover and transfer eagles to the Repository promptly. . . . With commitment and cooperation by all of the agencies in the executive branch and with tribal governments, I am confident that we will be able to accomplish meaningful progress in the distribution of eagles for Native American religious purposes. . . . [Federal Register, 59:22953–54 (May 4, 1994).] 225. Final Report of the Alaska Natives Commission May 1994 The Alaska Natives Commission, according to its mandate, published a report of its findings and recommendations. The report is a three-volume work, full of data on social and economic conditions, historical accounts about what has happened to Alaska Natives, and detailed recommendations of what the federal government, the state government, and the Natives themselves should do to correct the devastating conditions the Commission found. The following selections from the introductory sections of volume 1 give some of the tone and the broad conclusions of the Commission’s report. Congress on October 9, 1996, responded to this report by authorizing the Alaska Federation of Natives to study the report and to make specific recommendations ( U.S. Statutes at Large, 110:3301–03). 348 . . . . What the Commission Found A 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning series in the Anchorage Daily News characterized them as “A People in Peril.” Farley Mowat, a Canadian author writing about the similarly situated Inuit of his country used the term “A Desperate People.” Whatever words are chosen to depict the situation of Alaska’s Native people, there can be little doubt that an entire population is at risk. At risk of becoming permanently imprisoned in America’s underclass, mired in both the physical and spiritual poverty that accompany such social standing. At risk of leading lives, generation to generation, characterized by violence, alcohol abuse and cycles of personal and social destruction. At risk of losing, irretrievably, cultural strengths and attributes essential for the building of a new and workable social and economic order. And at risk, inevitably, of permanently losing the capacity to self-govern—the capacity to make considered and appropriate decisions about how life in Native communities should be lived. This report, mandated by the United States Congress and supported by both the federal government and the State of Alaska, paints a picture of 86,000 U.S. citizens living in the richest state of the union who, despite such fortunate geographic placement, have experienced—and are today experiencing— economic deprivation and social impairment at sometimes incomprehensible rates. The roots and causes of...