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Eagle wing trafficking case to be heard in Lethbridge court
Powwow dancer Rachel CrowSpreadingWings argues she has constitutional right to possess eagle parts CBC News
Posted: Nov 12, 2014 8:29 AM MT Last Updated: Nov 12, 2014 7:52 PM MT
An aboriginal spiritual leader on trial in southern Alberta says she has a constitutional right to buy and possess eagle parts.
Rachel CrowSpreadingWings, a member of the Kainai Nation or Blood Tribe, was charged last year with trafficking and possession of wildlife parts after buying an eagle wing.
She appeared in a Lethbridge courtroom Wednesday on the charges.
CrowSpreadingWings admits she paid $250 for an eagle wing in January 2013, but said she intended to use it to make powwow regalia for her family
Selling or possessing eagle parts is illegal under the Alberta Wildlife Act. The maximum penalty for both charges is $100,000 in fines and two years in jail.
But CrowSpreadingWings, a traditional powwow dancer, says the province did not have the right to lay charges.
“Most of my argument is based on the constitution and your guarantee as a Canadian citizen to be free to be who you are, and to practice your religion and live your culture freely.”
Eagle feathers are considered sacred by many First Nations in North America. Feathers, wings and sometimes whole eagles are used in spiritual ceremonies and to adorn traditional regalia.
CrowSpreadingWings is representing herself in court, but said she had no choice.
She says she can't afford a lawyer and she is not eligible for legal aid because the charges are not under the Criminal Code.
Crowspreadingwings said she is also not finding it easy to navigate the court system on her own.
The trial is expected to take three days.