Below is a letter from Robert Soto that I had forgotten to post. He describes the experience of giving up his feathers. In case anyone thinks that the colonizing days are over, think again.
March 25, 2006
I wish I could describe the day and the feelings that went through my heart and mind as we delivered my two roach feathers to the federal agent today. As you may already know, our area of the world is warm and sometimes very hot throughout the winter. We have not had rain or even a cold day almost all winter. But this morning when I woke up, not only was it colder than normal, but it was a super gloomy day with rain. As went to pick up two of our elders to help us out in our ceremony, I almost felt that God our Creator was weeping with His children.
Words can't really describe what was going through my heart as about 25 of us gathered outside the lawyer's office complex with our ceremonial regalia and prayed. I prayed that God would give us wisdom. I prayed that God would continue to guide us. As I prayed I reminded my people that Romans 8:28 was still in the Bible, that all things do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. I reminded them that God was still on the throne and that He was still in control. I reminded them that we have to be patient for the greater good that will come out of this day and the event that was about to follow. As I finished praying, one of our honored elders, a decorated Korean war veteran, held the two feathers in his hands. The feathers were wrapped in our traditional ways, as if we were about to bury one of our own. The drummers started singing our traditional farewell song in our Apache language as we slowly started our way to the room where the federal agent was waiting for us. As we slowly proceeded through the hallway, workers came to support us and then stood bowing down as in prayer. As we entered the room, the federal agent was waiting for us.
He could not look us in the eye. We stood there and sang our song. When we finished our song, I lit some sage with the very same feathers that I was giving up and blessed the bustles and feathers that were being taken away. Then all the people came and smudged themselves. Then our drum sang a farewell song. It was a powerful song. There was not a dry eye in the room. Our people were crying as we had just lost a loved one. In many ways, we had.
After we finished our song I looked at the agent and told him we were finished. At that time he asked everyone except Mike and I to leave the room. We stayed behind and he talked to us. He wanted to assure us that this was not a racial thing or just picking on Indians. That he was just doing his job. He then turned to me and said, "Do you understand this?" I looked at him and said, "I wish not to say anything." We signed our charges and we left. The lawyer came to say goodbye and every one with tears in their eyes thanked him for all his help. One lady who was with us is from Switzerland. She is here to help Iris and me with our church work. She looked at the lawyer with tears in her eyes and said, "I have always read about the bad things we did to the Indian people. In Europe we think things have changed. But now I know that things have not changed at all."
As I was getting ready to leave I asked the lawyer about a videotape that was on the table with the agent. He said he would go and ask. Basically, the war is not over. He is going to war with the Indian people in Texas. I was told that the agency is planning to invade many other pow wows in Texas. His goal is to bust any Indian person who is not federally recognized in Texas. This does not sound like he is 'just doing his job'. He has an agenda and has chosen to attack a certain people group. In Texas there are over 280,000 Native Americans. Most of these do not have their status card. So this man has chosen to go to war against all of us. Our lawyer advised us to warn all the people who put on pow wows - to warn them about the wrath that is still to come against them from an agent who is taking this as his task to destroy who we are as Native Americans.
Tonight was a very sad night. I performed for an arts organization in McAllen. Tonight I danced without my feathers for the first time ever. Keep us in prayer. This story is not over. He might come after me again. I guess some of us must die before the world sees that very little has changed when it comes to Native American rights.
I will be traveling tomorrow to a pow wow where I will be the head man dancer, doing my hoop dance and will be conducting a Native worship service. Pray for us as we travel 490 miles to the pow wow. I do not feel like dancing, but at the same time I have obligations to keep. Pray for all who will come to our service on Sunday. Love you all and thank you for your prayers. I will send you the letter with the state officials we need to contact very soon. By the way, we will try and have some pictures of the surrendering of our feathers in our website by Saturday or Sunday.
Our website is http://sontree.org/.
Robert Soto, Lipan Apache Warrior for Jesus