ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- For hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, Natives of Southeast Alaska have paid artisans to create tools, clothing and ceremonial regalia adorned with feathers.
So contemporary Tlingit carver Archie Cavanaugh was startled last month when U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service personnel told him that items he had advertised for sale violated federal laws. Specifically: a carved hat featuring the wings and tail of a raven, and a headdress, or “shakee.át,” topped with the feathers of a flicker, a robin-size relative of the woodpecker.
“They told me that under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act they can charge me up to $10,000 and throw me in jail for a couple of years,” Cavanaugh said. “And they told me that under the Lacey Act they can charge me up to $100,000 and put me in jail for 10 years. It was very scary. I went into complete depression.”
In shock, he removed the ads from the Internet sites where they’d been posted and took the feathers off the items. But that only seemed to make the problem worse.
“They told me that I was tampering with evidence and that would be another charge,” he recounted. “I told them, 'I was just trying to comply with you guys’ request.’ ”
Cavanaugh hired an attorney and sought advice from Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute.