Sealaska Leader Testifies on H.R. 3109

Vice Chair Jacqueline Pata provides remarks

Sealaska Vice Chair Testifies on Changes to Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a hearing on H.R. 3109 on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. H.R. 3109, introduced by Congressman Don Young, would amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exempt traditional and customary Alaska Native handicrafts from being penalized under the federal act. Sealaska Vice Chair Jacqueline Pata offered remarks to H.R. 3109.

Sealaska Heritage Institute sought an amendment to the federal act to ensure Alaska Natives and American Indians would not be prosecuted for traditional and customary uses. Members of Sealaska’s board and management often testify before Congress for the advocacy and passage of important legislation that positively affects our people. Cultural use of feathers became a legal issue for a Sealaska tribal member shareholder who wasn’t aware of prohibitions. Read written testimony by Alaska Federation of Natives subsistence committee chair Rosita Worl.

Sealaska thanks Congressman Young who continues to seek a resolution.

Excerpts from Sealaska Vice Chair Pata’s remarks
I believe that there are many misconceptions about the use of migratory bird parts and erroneous assumptions that convey a false impression that this amendment will facilitate an exponential growth in the use of migratory bird parts or feathers. This is simply untrue.

Alaska Native people are not looking to commercialize the use of feathers, but rather to continue a tradition and culture that respects our ancient cultural values and the principles of conservation and allows a small number of Alaska Native artists, who have fashioned painstakingly and with great skill, the art, handicrafts and clothing in the footsteps of those who came before them.

We find it disheartening that the MBTA and subsequent regulations were certain to preserve the rights under 50 CFR 20.91 to make and sell pillows, blankets or fishing flies. Unfortunately, protecting Alaska Native culture and its utilization of migratory bird feathers and parts was less important in 1918.

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