Press release | July 1, 2019

On Thursday, June 27th, 2019, in Bismarck, ND, the primary plaintiffs of the Keepseagle lawsuit were bestowed eagle feathers in honor and respect due to their modern day warrior activity in fighting for equal opportunity and rights in the famous and decades-long discrimination lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The ceremony was initiated by the Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) Board of Trustees and staff who were convening in Bismarck, ND for one of their strategic planning business meetings. The Board is charged with developing and overseeing programs that will support the efforts of Native farmers and ranchers and other tribal members in the use and stewardship of their tribal natural resources.

Janie Hipp (Chickasaw), CEO of NAAF, said, “The honoring [of named plaintiffs] with eagle feathers was most fitting, as such a ceremony is appropriate and necessary to demonstrate their achievement through an ageless and ongoing ritual.”

In the old days, a person that had earned many feathers was held in high esteem by the village or community.  Leaders dawned a headdress of feathers, and whereupon seeing a person with a headdress on, everyone knew immediately that this person had done many great deeds.

George and Marilyn Keepseagle (Hunkpapa Lakota), as well as Claryca Mandan (Arikara) and Porter Holder (Choctaw), primary named litigants in the lawsuit, each received an eagle feather in a traditional manner performed by Jesse Jay Taken Alive. He explained the meaning and significance of the eagle and the offering of eagle feathers in the performance of great deeds and work on behalf of the people.

The Keepseagle settlement award was $680 million dollars, with over half being distributed to the thousands of Native farmers and ranchers across the nation who were denied services by USDA. After individual claims were paid to claimants harmed by the actions, the remaining funds were used by the Court to establish a charitable trust, NAAF.

In closing, George Keepseagle, in his ever-present humble manner, expressed his sincere trust and faith in the Board, that they would continue on in carrying out their charge to enhance the efforts for the support of Native agriculture.

The Native American Agriculture Fund (NAAF) is a charitable trust created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle v Vilsack class-action lawsuit. NAAF is the largest philanthropic organization devoted solely to serving the Native American farming and ranching community.

Karli Moore