Awhile back I was very fortunate to hear Anthropologist Dr Jonathan Reyman lecture on a topic I found fascinating. He explained that feathers were an important part of the culture of native peoples who live in Pueblos of the southwest. As I recall he explained years ago he was doing some work in this area and was asked by the Pueblo Indians if he could help them acquire feathers. Although not connected to the parrot community, Dr Reyman took it upon himself to make a repository for parrot feathers that could be distributed to the people of the Pueblos.
I did not quite understand the impact of this until I had the opportunity to visit two Pueblos myself. It was explained that our group of travelers worked with parrots and could help with feather acquisitions. Although fiercely protective of their culture and ceremonies, we were given a very special presentation that explained the important role feathers play in their religious ceremonies. While the presentation was enlightening what was even more impactful was the deep emotion and gratitude coming from our hosts. We experienced this at both Pueblos we visited. A parrot feather in a vase may be nice for us, but to them it is a connection to the spiritual world. Learning this really affected me. From that moment forward I have saved every feather my parrots drop and sent them to the Feather Distribution Project.
It has been super easy. I have a large baggie that is always ready and waiting for feathers. Once the baggie is full, I label it with the species of birds. I then put everything in a mailing tube to protect the feathers and send them to:
Dr. Jonathan E. Reyman
Illinois State Museum Research & Collections Center
1011 East Ash Street
Springfield, IL 62703-3500
The feathers are not bought or sold. They are given to the Pueblo Indians who submit request forms. This can potentially help protect parrots from being used for feather commerce. In the past Pueblo Indians often had to resort to eBay to acquire feathers…and where those feathers come from and how acquired is often unknown.
The feathers can be dirty, damaged and just about any size. The feathers are cleaned and sterilized at the museum. Damaged feathers are fine because feathers are sometimes cut into elaborate designs. Please only send parrot feathers. Feathers from native North American birds cannot be legally distributed via this avenue.
So if you are not sure what to do with your parrot feathers, consider sending them to the Feather Distribution Project. I can guarantee the recipient of your feather gift will be extremely grateful.
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