The eagle holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Prairie Island Indian Community in southeastern Minnesota.

“For our tribe and our culture, the eagle has special meaning. We call him ‘the messenger for the creator,’ ” said Tribal Council President Shelley Buck.

So when the National Eagle Center needed help raising $8 million to $10 million from private sources to complement state aid to expand its avian care facility in nearby Wabasha, Minn., the tribe was all in.

Last week, it announced plans to host a masquerade charity ball on Aug. 3 from 6-10 p.m. at the Treasure Island Resort & Casino Island Event Center in Welch. The event will feature live bald eagle “ambassadors” from the eagle center, a three-course meal, casino games and a mask contest — though masks are not required.

Andrea Chapman, director of development for the National Eagle Center, said proceeds from the ball will go toward a $750,000 off-site facility that will provide more space for the center’s bald and golden eagles and its red tail hawk.

“Part of what is needed is more space for those eagles and more space for them to be trained. We care for them until the end of life so part of it will be retirement space for them,” Chapman said. “The expansion that we have planned will include more educational space, more eagles and space for the Preston Cook [eagle art] collection to be exhibited.”

The avian care facility is part of an $8 million bonding bill Gov. Mark Dayton signed in May to help fund a planned, $16 million center expansion.

Buck said the current conditions the retiring birds must live in are “kind of sad. They deserve to have the best when they retire. We’re excited to be a part of that and make it a reality.”

Reservations are available through the National Eagle Center website at Individual tickets cost $150; a table for up to eight costs $1,000. Tickets must be bought in advance. Sales will remain open through Friday.

Rolf Thompson, executive director at the National Eagle Center, thanked the Prairie Island Community for its ongoing support.

“They have been close partners and supporters of ours from the very beginning and we cannot overstate the importance of the special relationship that we share with them,” he said.


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