The Feather Religion / by Chris Maynard

Tundra Swan
Tundra Swan
The power of the wind was in the feather which he made you hold in your hand.
— from a participant in The Feather Religion, 1905, Klickitat, WA, USA

Klickitat native Jake Hunt started this religion between 1898 and 1904. This was a during a generation of northwest USA natives who were experiencing huge changes in their cultures as European descendants restricted their ways of life and access to resources. It was related to the Washani (which also uses eagle feathers) and later, to the Shaker Native American religion.

An eagle feather was held in each hand and a person would spin. Songs were sung, drums played, and feathers waved to keep time. The feathers were used to brush sickness off the body and worn in the hair in prescribed ways as reminders of the powers of feathers, or at least by association, eagles.

It seemed as though I were traveling as I had never traveled before because in my hand I held the feather…and it was leading me on.

Quotes collected from Alice DuBois, The Feather Cult of the Middle Columbia, 1938, General Series in Anthropology, George Banta Publishing Co.