One Wing honored with songs and celebration

By Rebecca George
Published Sunday, July 27, 2008

FAIRBANKS — One Wing, the bald eagle who amazed local veterinarians when he survived the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 with only one wing, died in early May after thriving for 19 years following the spill at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.

In honor of One Wing, Fairbanks Native drum group Soaring Eagle, along with many others from the Alaska Native community will perform traditional honor songs at a ceremony that both celebrates the courageous life of One Wing and commemorates the center’s 20th anniversary.

Soaring Eagle drum leader Bob Maguire saw the eagle as the true symbol of courage and sacrifice.

“He needs to be honored in the right way,” Maguire said.

Many in the Alaska Native community refer to One Wing as a special eagle brother because of his strong spirit.

A teary-eyed Maguire said “One Wing fought so hard to be free, and that’s how he destroyed his wing. But the bird kept lively as ever even though (the doctor) drew blood from the eagle countless times.”

Veterinarian Cindy Palmatier was the primary caregiver for One Wing at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

“We had to amputate his entire wing from his shoulder down when we rescued him, because he tore it fighting so hard to fly away free,” she said.

The chance that One Wing would live after his wing had been amputated was slim Palmatier said.

But the stubborn and regal survivor continued to serve as a blood donor to the hundreds of other birds that came in suffering from anemia and other blood disorders caused by the effects of crude oil and amazed veterinarians with his strength.

Despite the overwhelming amount of blood One Wing was transfusing, he continued to grow stronger each day.

“That bird gave and gave and gave way beyond what any bird should be able to accommodate, and we really utilized him heavily to help other birds,” Palmatier said.

The bird quickly earned a place in the hearts of many and was known for his bravery and noble demeanor among the other birds.

One Wing has had quite a following throughout the years thanks to poems written by now retired veterinarian Dr. Jim Scott and Joan Harris, who has written a popular children’s book titled “One Wing’s Gift: Rescuing Alaska’s Wild Birds.”

“People came from all over the country to check up on One Wing, so it’s only right that we finally release him in such a special way,” Palmatier said.

The ceremony will release One Wing’s ashes back to the Eyak Nation and into the Prince William Sound.

At the same time, another eagle will be released, and the members of the Treatment and Learning Center will be celebrating their 20th anniversary.

Soaring Eagle will perform traditional honor songs gifted by Chief Marie Smith-Jones of the Eyak tribe.

Maguire explained that the Eyak honor song holds a special place among the Native community as it was given back to the people about six years ago when they traveled to the now quieted village of Eyak.

“People were singing the song, but had no idea what it was about or where it came from,” he said. “The elders explained to the curious singers the origin and home of the song.”

Maguire explained that the elders told the younger generations the songs were still alive even if people weren’t living there to sing them.

“The songs are in the mountains and trees of Eyak, and that’s where One Wing should be, too,” he said.

The celebration and farewell ceremony will be held Aug. 23 at the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.

In addition to Soaring Eagle, many other Alaska Native drum groups and author Joan Harris and Dr. Jim Scott will be celebrating the life of One Wing.

Copied from the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.