MIAMI — Elementary students from all four elementary schools in Miami were treated to a special and unique presentation Monday in celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Students from Rockdale, Washington, Wilson, and Roosevelt elementary schools in Miami gathered at First Christian Church to meet and hear from the founders and directors of Sia, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative, based in Cyril, Oklahoma, who brought with them some eagles for the students to enjoy up close and personal.

Sia is the Comanche word for feather. The Comanche Tribe is one of only three tribes to be granted the Native American Religious Use Permit that allows for the permanent housing of non-releasable Bald and Golden Eagles.

Miami School Superintendent Jeremy Hogan said, “I think this presentation and the meaning behind it is pretty awesome. Native American history is very interesting to the kids and I hope to do this every year.

“We recognize the heritage and culture of our Indian students and want other students to also. This is just one of several events we have planned this month to celebrate Native Americans,” Hogan said Monday.

At Sia’s facility, visitors can see birds of prey up close, learn about eagle preservation efforts, and view eagle artwork.

The facility also houses a library behind glass, a high tech protective room for historical relics, the eagle aviary, and a room full of religious artifacts from all over the world.

On hand to teach the students in Miami Monday were Troy (no surname), co-founder and co-director of Sia, who has over three decades of experience with native and non-native eagle and raptor field studies, as well as captive behavioral and artificial propagation research, and William “Bill” Voelker, founder and executive director, who has over 40 years of hands-on experience with the same.

The two tribal brothers brought with them a Bateleur Eagle named Mahwoomeh, who is 11 and originally from Tanzania, and Yapahchony, a Golden Eagle, who is 4.

Her name means cricket in the Comanche language and she is a ceremonial eagle. The students were mesmerized by the majestic raptors and couldn’t contain their excitement when Yapahchony decided to stretch and spread her wings to their fullest width (over 6 feet).

Sia believes in preservation through cultural understanding of the eagle in history, science, and spirit. They believe we should all be concerned about protecting our national symbol and ensuring its continued survival. Developing a better understanding of how the eagle is connected with our own heritage is also a journey of self-discovery.

“It’s an important educational outreach and an important part of our overall mission, which is…from a cultural basis…to share “eagleness” with both tribal members and non-tribal alike,” Voelker said.

The essence of the eagle in traditional life is the basis for Sia’s commitment to the culturally based, spiritual needs of indigenous people.

Reconnecting cultures with the living bird in ways supportive of the species’ conservation is a primary goal of Sia’s ongoing efforts, and they have bred and released over 400 bald and golden eagles into the wild.

Under the authority of the Religious Use Permit, feathers molted by these eagles can be distributed to Comanche tribal members as well as members of any federally recognized tribes. Sia has assisted 44 different tribes with feathers to date.

The spiritual integrity of certain Native American ceremonies require the use of feathers and/or parts of many different species of migratory birds. Sia addresses this issue utilizing molted feathers from birds legally held in captivity by zoos, rehabilitation facilities, educational centers and falconers, process and catalogue the feathers, and then assemble them to meet the specific needs of Native Americans across the country.

Sia has pioneered the technology of imparting absolute authentication to individual feathers so that, once distributed, they carry a unique identity. This aspect of research and protocol will minimize the illegal abuse of migratory bird feathers. Federal and state laws prohibit the sale, barter, or trade of protected species feathers.

For more information, visit 106 Texas Street, Cyril, OK, call 580-464-2750, e-mail siainc@tds.net or log onto www.comancheeagle.org.

You can also visit their Facebook page.