Amber Bracken: Wasicu and the Eagles
Project Statement:Wasicu means a non-Lakota person but is also used colloquially for someone who is greedy, who takes more than they need for themselves. The plight of the the eagles, like that of the Lakota peoples, was created by colonization but is often blamed on the victims rather than the perpetrators. Eagles are deeply important to the spiritual teachings in their culture and the animals harassment and control within a colonial system is a powerful metaphor for the ongoing oppression of Lakota people.
This body of work examines the cultural significance of the eagle in Lakota culture and the modern and historical pressures that have threatened wild populations. In April 2017 the U.S. Department of Justice announced it had indicted 15 defendants, many who were Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation, the poorest county in the United States. Called Project Dakota Flyer, the sting operation by the Fish and Wildlife Service is the latest in a string of investigations into the black market for eagle feathers and parts that has fanned out across North America and beyond.
Golden eagles, number only 40,000 in the wild. After decades of population management and banning DDT, wild bald eagles are thriving, with a population of 140,000 in 2016. The greatest stresses on eagle populations are habitat threat, wind turbines, power lines and poisoning from lead bullets. While illegal hunting does exacerbate modern pressures for eagles, Native Americans have harvested feathers, bones and other parts for thousands of years without impairing the wild population.