A Statement from Wowitan Yuha Mani (David Swallow, Jr.),

Headman of the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota Nations,

on the subject of

Eagle Feathers

 Pine Ridge Reservation, September 15, 2011

September 15th 2011


Hau, my relatives and friends,

I want to talk about the controversy over the eagle feathers which were awarded to the two slain police officers of Rapid City, South Dakota and buried with them. I was raised by my grandparents in Porcupine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. This is how I was told about how awarding eagle feathers is done and whom to give them to and who can receive them.

The eagle is a great, sacred bird, the one who carries the messages and prayers for the Lakota People and other tribes in all ceremonies. These ceremonies are conducted by the holy men, medicine men and spiritual leaders only, and if any individual who is not authorized to award eagle feathers wishes to do so, he or she always asks for assistance from these individuals, and songs are always used during these ceremonies. Back in my grandfather’s days, the one who received an eagle feather did a great deed for his people.

Like in the military, only the higher ups can award medals, etc. Not any private or civilian could award these. To the Lakota, whoever carries eagle feathers received these through ceremony. There are ceremonies conducted in which eagle feathers are awarded, such as the Naming ceremony, or the Making of a Relative ceremony and other ceremonies as well.  And these feathers are like the guardians, the wowanglaki. These feathers are to be are kept in an honorable way. They are not to be disrespected or mistreated or displayed improperly, such as being hung on a rear view mirror. My grandfather told us that the ones, who were awarded eagle feathers among my people, wore them proudly and bravely against the enemy.  Whoever the enemy may have been.

An eagle feather must not touch the ground. If this happens a ceremony must take place. The only time this might happen is the warrior is killed in battle. That’s the only time the eagle feather touches the ground, and when this warrior is buried, the spiritual leader awarded the fallen warrior’s feathers to his father, mother, wife, or to a family member.

Never bury an eagle feather or the čhannúnpa. If an eagle feather or a čhannúnpa is buried, this will cause a curse to the family of the deceased. Some family member will die in a mysterious way. These natural laws of God existed before man-made laws or any treaty laws.

It is sad what has happened to the two police officers and to the young Lakota man who also died as well. And it is sad for all of us, Lakota, and our white brothers and sisters and all my relatives. We pray for both sides, and may their spirits go into the spirit world like an arrow shot into the sky.

I share this with you. This knowledge has been passed down to me through my grandfathers and their grandfathers over many generations.

Ho hečhetu welo, I have spoken.

Wowita Yuha Mani, David Swallow, Jr.
Lakota spiritual Leader, Headman of the Porcupine District
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Pine Ridge, SD