Court: Eagle feathers only for American Indians

Salt Lake City, USA - An appeals court has ruled that only federally recognized American Indian tribes may use eagle parts and feathers in religious ceremonies.

The Denver-based U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday credited a lower court for trying to sort out the matter but decided federal law still prohibits non-Indians from possessing eagle feathers — and that does not violate religious freedoms.

The ruling comes after several cases in which non-Indians sought the right to use feathers in their religious practices.

Those cases were filed in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah, where a man was charged with possessing 141 eagle feathers without a permit.

All cases weighed freedom of religion against the government's ability to protect the eagles.

Many Native Americans believe eagle feathers are sacred.