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First Nations woman faces charges she trafficked in eagle feathers

LETHBRIDGE, Alberta, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A Canadian First Nations woman faces charges she trafficked in eagle feathers, authorities say.

Rachel CrowSpreadingWings, 32, of the Blackfoot tribe in Alberta, who says she simply bought an eagle wing for $250 to create items to be used at ceremonial powwows, could be jailed for up to two years and fined $100,000 if found guilty on the trafficking counts when she goes to trial in May, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

"Eagles have always been sacred in our ceremonies and our prayers," CrowSpreadingWings told the CBC. "How is it wrong to give somebody money, when they give you a sacred object, when it's in mutual respect of that object and they know you're going to use it correctly?"

Provincial wildlife officials aren't commenting on the case involving the traditional powwow dancer and singer, the CBC said.

A whole golden or bald eagle can be worth several hundred dollars on the underground market. The value soars into the thousands of dollars when turned into tribal regalia such as headdresses, the CBC notes.

CrowSpreadingWings says she obtained the eagle wing from Craig and Donovan Jackson, who said they found it. She said she gave them tobacco, a traditional gift among tribes for a wing, and $250 to buy groceries.

In her mind, she said, it was an exchange of gifts based on what each had. She said she intended to use the wing's nearly 100 feathers to create dance regalia for her children and brother.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police ended that plan a month later when they got in touch with her after charging the men with trafficking wildlife. Craig Jackson pleaded guilty and was fined $7,000, the CBC said, while Donovan Jackson has yet to enter a plea.

"I wasn't doing anything wrong," CrowSpreadingWings said. "When somebody comes to you and asks you to help them, you help them if you can."

Tribal elders and fellow members such as Allen Eli-Wolf Tail have voiced support for CrowSpreadingWings.

"She had no intent to profit," he said. "The concept was to help somebody. It was empathy. She didn't do anything wrong in our ways."

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