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Defend the SacredNative American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment$
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Michael D. McNally

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691190907

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691190907.001.0001

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Religion as Collective Right

Religion as Collective Right

Repatriation and Access to Eagle Feathers

(p.196) 6 Religion as Collective Right
Defend the Sacred

Michael D. McNally

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses repatriation law and a cluster of legal cases involving possession of ceremonial eagle feathers, where courts have consistently affirmed the collective contours of Native religions. Courts have upheld an exemption to the criminal penalties for feather possession tailored to members of federally recognized tribes against legal challenges by individual practitioners of Native religions who are not members of those tribes. These cases illustrate well the difficulties and the possibilities of religion as a category encompassing collective Native traditions. The coalition that persuaded Congress in 1994 to pass the Peyote Amendment to AIRFA was successful in part because it was largely the same circle of advocates, lawyers, tribal spiritual and political leaders, and allies who had recently won congressional passage of two repatriation statutes: the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAI) in 1989 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) the next year. The chapter thus tells the story of Native-led efforts to secure these two laws and offers an interpretation of them not as religious freedom laws, but primarily as additions to federal Indian law that encompass religious and cultural heritage.

Keywords:   collective rights, ceremonial eagle feathers, religious heritage, cultural heritage, repatriation law, repatriation, federal Indian law

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