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Eagle Flight Cage Dedication

On Saturday, January 15, 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the dedication of the Iowa Tribe’s newest flight cage at the Bah Kho-je Xla Chi (Grey Snow Eagle House), funded by the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife grant. This event also commemorated the aviary's 5th anniversary. For the past three years, my Aunt, VaRene Martin has been enthusiastically talking about the tribe’s progress with their eagle rehabilitation program.

On many occasions, I have heard her talk about her friend Victor Roubidoux, Aviary Manager. On our drive to Perkins she shared how committed Victor is and described his relationship with the eagles in a way that transcends his title. “He has committed his life to these special companions,” she said. After meeting Victor it was evident that he is passionately devoted to his role as caregiver.

Victor began the dedication ceremony welcoming and thanking all for coming, “We believe that the eagle is the only animal that has seen the face of the creator and so we honor him with respect and dignity.” I could see many of the Iowa community members shaking their heads proudly in acknowledgement of his testimonial. He talked about how pleased he was the tribe was sustaining a tradition of respect and care for this important animal in their culture.

Victor introduced Joe Early, (Laguna Pueblo) who is the Native American Liaison for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Early commented, “The Iowa Tribal facility is being closely watched by other tribes nationwide."

Founder and Director, Bill Voelker, of Sia, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative was also a special guest signifying the Comanche Nations support of the Iowa Tribes rehabilitation program. Sia, the Comanche word for feather, took flight in 1999 when it was incorporated under the Comanche Nation as a tribal program. Bill brought a beautiful eagle staff and shared some of the history about the eagles represented on the staff and explained that all of the feathers on the staff were fallen feathers, he spoke about the importance of the eagle in the Comanche culture and then offered a prayer.

Kwihnia makwetsoi okweetunia or Troy Co-Founder and Co-Director of Sia, accompanied Bill to the dedication with a 30-week-old golden eagle named "Tomovah." Tomovah will never be able to be released back into the wild because he is being raised by humans. The hope is Tomovah will breed with other eagles. Tomovah was very playful! At one point he had the whole crowd laughing when he turned his head upside down under his tail feathers and again when he appeared to yawn during the guest comments. The crowd gathered around Tomovah taking photographs and interacting with the eagle, while having an opportunity to ask Troy questions.

Next, some of the Iowa tribal cultural leaders entered the new flight cage to offer thanksgiving and a blessing for the eagle’s new rehabilitation home. It was revealed that all of the eagles are smoked-off and prayed for whenever they first arrive as a part of the healing and rehabilitation process.

Chairwoman Janice Kurak cut the ribbon and invited all to tour the new facility and join the tribe for a feast in the Chena Building following the tour. As my family was making our way to the dinner we commented to Victor how amazingly beautiful the weather was for the dedication, Victor remarked, “If you take care of the eagles, they will always take care of you.” It was a reminder that will stay with me always.

We then proceeded to the Chena building, Chairwoman Kurak invited all to enjoy a meal and introduced the tribes entertainment who would be offering a traditional eagle dance.

What a pleasant and unexpected surprise! It was my old friend Bob Murray Jr., who used to perform with several others and myself as a part of The Great American Indian Dance Company. We all laughed and reminisced about old times and our travels together. It was a great feeling to see many old friends in the Iowa community. A blessed day the eagles made for us all.

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