On Sunday April 12, 2015, I arrived in Pungo, Virginia at the request of Sacred Friends, Inc. to cover a story involving the release of a rehabilitated bald eagle. I was in journalism mode, setting up my video camera, preparing to take photos and conduct interviews about the gorgeous bird.
What I didn’t realize is that I would be asked to release the eagle myself. I’ve always revered bald eagles as a veteran of the military—it is the symbol of the United States, and as a Native American (Akwesasne Mohawk), I recognize the bald eagle as a messenger of prayers to the Creator.
As I held the sacred animal in my arms, I was overwhelmed with humility and wonder. When I was holding this beautiful and majestic creature, it briefly stared directly into my eyes. Words cannot express the feelings that coursed through my body, but I felt as though the eagle was trying to give me a message.
I released the eagle into the air, not realizing that my own two feet lifted from the earth. I watched with awe and excitement as the eagle flew into the sky. I was the last human to touch this majestic bird.
I thank the Creator for receiving such an amazing gift. It was a day I will remember for the rest of my life.
Sacred Friends, Inc. is a nonprofit organization in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It is owned and operated by Pearl Beamer, Lakota, and Jimmy “Two Hawks” Beamer, Cherokee. The Beamers, who are federally licensed wildlife handlers, received the injured bald eagle on April 1. According to Pearl, the bald eagle had been transferred from the Richmond Wildlife Center with injuries from a larger bird.
“After examination upon arrival it was determined that its injuries were from an attack by another eagle or osprey. All his wounds were puncture wounds and/or minor cuts and abrasions. Its weight upon arrival was a little over 6.3 pounds,” she said.
Pearl also said the injuries were not serious and were somewhat of a normal happenstance in the wild.
“After feeding it good groceries and some antibiotics, he was healed up and ready to go back into the world. He was 8.6 pounds upon release,” she said.
On Sunday April 12, the 5-year-old bald eagle was released in Pungo, Virginia outside of a private family farm with an audience of about 30 onlookers.
After being released, the eagle flew in a circle about one mile in diameter and eventually flew outside of a visible tree line east of the release.
Jimmy said they wanted Schilling to do the release because they wanted to give ICTMN an appreciative shout out and because he’s a recognized name in Indian Country.
“You [Vincent] have helped Sacred Friends in terms of your work. We believe he earned this. This is not something we do lightly to release a bird a like this,” Jimmy said.