Two Native American Men Indicted for Unlawfully Selling Eagle and Hawk Feathers


U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced March 6 in a U.S. Department of Justice news release that Ruben Dean Littlehead, 38, Lawrence, Kansas, and Brian K. Stoner, 32, Ponca City, Oklahoma, are charged with unlawfully selling feathers from eagles and hawks covered by a federal law protecting migratory birds. The crimes are alleged to have occurred in Douglas County, Kansas.

Federal law (Title 16, United States Code, Section 703) prohibits taking, killing or possessing migratory birds. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintains a National Eagle Repository in Colorado for the purpose of providing eagle feathers to Native Americans for use in Indian religious and cultural ceremonies. (For more information, see:

The indictment alleges:

On September 15, 2008, Littlehead sold a bustle made with 68 feathers from a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

On November 22, 2008, Littlehead sold 11 tail feathers and a wing from a Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

On February 26, 2009, Littlehead and Stoner offered for sale parts of a Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and a Crested Caracara (Mexican Eagle, Caracara cheriway). They sold a tail feather fan made from feathers of a Bald eagle.

On February 26, 2009, they sold a bustle made of feathers of a rough-legged hawk and ferruginous hawk (Bueto lagopus and Buteo regalis).

If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Hendershot is prosecuting.

Court documents were not immediately available for review. Ruben Littlehead, Northern Cheyenne, is a top pow wow dancer and MC, who has emceed at major events such as the Gathering of Nations.

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OMG from KS's picture
OMG from KS
Submitted by OMG from KS on
Very sad and disappointing to hear this. Always thought things were going good with life he was living.

Idaho Bad River's picture
Idaho Bad River
Submitted by Idaho Bad River on
I was taught you don't sell things like that. Selling Eagle and Hawk feathers goes against tradition. sickening.....just sick

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Is there a way to obtain these feathers that does not involve killing the birds?

warrior1216's picture
Submitted by warrior1216 on
If they did in fact sell those feathers in if the dates are true, it shows a pattern of, selling, PROFITING off our spiritual items which is NOT done and can never be condoned! THAT IS DISRESPECTING ALL OF CREATION! We must however remember our Brothers haven't told the story yet!

Jane-elizabeth henniker's picture
Jane-elizabeth ...
Submitted by Jane-elizabeth ... on
its sad to hear that he sold this ,,,, but makes me think how much should those people pay for killing the Buffalo in the past ?,,, they always make such a big fuss when indigenouse people do something like this,,,, but what about the things they do ?

Jane-elizabeth henniker's picture
Jane-elizabeth ...
Submitted by Jane-elizabeth ... on
its sad to hear that he sold this ,,,, but makes me think how much should those people pay for killing the Buffalo in the past ?,,, they always make such a big fuss when indigenouse people do something like this,,,, but what about the things they do ?

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I think some of you are missing the point. Just because money is/was involved, does not necessarily mean that something is not sacred.Some of the most sacred things we do as native people today, sometimes involve monetary compensation.Most medicine people are often compensated with cash, because that is the reality that was created and our people have had to adjust.Why do most of us (if we are lucky) have jobs and are not hunting or fishing for our survival?For me it is about intent and if things were done in a respectful manner.Most tribes did not separate our spirtuality from the rest of our lives and that is often difficult for non-traditionally minded people to understand.

Submitted by UPNORTHGRANNY on
Feathers should NEVER be sold. For any reasons. Period. I too am waiting for the 'other side of the story'. Was it a barter, were they gifted? The government side is always biased and anti-Native rights.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I guess I am the only one here that has to pay for gas or pay bills.I wish evrything could be done by barter as in days past, but thats when there was no money and the only thing to do was to trade!Now, there are expenses that cannot be taken care through barter, not by our choice, but it is just the reality.I don't think money is the answer by no means, but to say that it does play a role, even in our ceremonial lives is wrong.Especially when one person is trying to speak for ALL tribes, which is ridiculous, because of the differences between tribal ways.Amongst my tribe when someone asked to be prayed for they often gave them a horse, to care of their transportation, so what should be done today since most of us now drive cars?I know many ceremonial people that understand this and allow monetary compensation to take of costs that our old people never had.The issue here is abuse and intent, if that was or was not the case and not if money was involved.

GT's picture
Submitted by GT on
If you own something, the government shouldn't be able to tell you what to do with something that you own.

Ema Nymton's picture
Ema Nymton
Submitted by Ema Nymton on
Ruben Littlehead..?? no way this is just crazy to hear that he would do this... Danggg...

big little bear's picture
big little bear
Submitted by big little bear on
it always been my thoughts that the laws protecting birds that are special to us as native americans are in some ways unfair. We may not be the only ones to revere these birds but it seems we are the only ones that are made an example of. Some natives may kill birds but most come by their feathers by legal means. are we not all god creations are we not of one spirit are not the children of the one and only great spirit the who gives life to us all .

Concerned tribal person's picture
Concerned triba...
Submitted by Concerned triba... on
Since when do Indian people have to ask white people for feathers. This is a tribal matter and should be handled by tribal people.

Garry RidesinBack 's picture
Garry RidesinBack
Submitted by Garry RidesinBack on
Top Dancer??? That dude never won anything that wasn't rigged. HaHaHa

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I dunno, have to see more on this. Did they actually pursue the sale of each individual feather or of the eagles n hawks as a whole with a price for the bird or feathers itself, or were they contracted to make a bustle and attach the feathers?

Starwalker 's picture
Submitted by Starwalker on
The work that go's into the making of a bustle , the hours that one puts in to it , I say you can sell the work and do a trade for the feathers like tobacco?

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Sad to hear a Native doing these things. This is something I would expect someone who didn't know better would do.