The eagle is a great sacred bird. Our favorite is the golden or war eagle, which we call "pretty-feathered eagle", because of his beautiful tail feathers, white, tipped with black, which we use for decorative and ceremonial purposes. A single tail feather was often rated as equal in value to a horse.
In time passed, the killing of an eagle was something that concerned the whole town. This could only be done by a professional eagle killer, chosen for the purpose on account of his knowledge of the prescribed forms and prayers to be said afterwards in order to obtain pardon for the necessary sacrilege, and thus ward off vengeance from our tribe.
The eagle must be killed only in winter or late fall after the crops were gathered and snakes retired to their dens. If killed in summertime a frost would destroy the corn, while the songs of the Eagle dance, when the feathers were brought home, would so anger the snakes that they would become doubly dangerous. That is why the Eagle songs were never sung until the snakes had gone to sleep in the winter.
It is told that one man deliberately killed an eagle in defiance of the ordinances and the he was constantly haunted by dreams of fierce eagles swooping down upon him in his nightmares.
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