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Feds grant Native American tribe permit to kill bald eagles for religious purposes
March 15th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

Feds grant Native American tribe permit to kill bald eagles for religious purposes

By Eric Fiegel, CNN

Washington (CNN) - It's the symbol of America, and for the first time, the U.S. government has granted a Native American tribe a permit to kill two bald eagles for religious purposes.

The permit application was filed in 2008 by the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and, after years of review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued it on March 9.

"They did make a case for why the take of a bird from the wild was necessary," Matt Hogan, Denver regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, told CNN.

Last year, the tribe filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the federal government for denying the application, saying it "unreasonably burdens the religious rights of tribal members," court documents stated.

The case is pending.

Hogan, who was in charge of granting the permit, says the lawsuit was not the reason the permit got approved when it did. He says it took time to make sure all the criteria were met and that the permit was in accordance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which allows bald eagles to be used by Native Americans in religious ceremonies.

The eagle "flies higher then any other creature. It sees many things. It's closer to the Creator," said Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians. Holden said he was bothered by the comments he was hearing: that this permit would lead to a mass killing of bald eagles.

"How stupid can that be?" he said. "It's a religion. It's what we do. We're more concerned about the eagle population than any culture in this Western Hemisphere. Why would we want to kill all the eagles?"

Hogan said the permit's issuance will have little effect on the powerful raptor. Taking two eagles from the wild "will not in any way jeopardize the status of the eagle population, either in the state of Wyoming or nationwide," he said, "and the good news is bald eagles are doing quite well."

That wasn't the case some 70 years ago, when the species was threatened with extinction, leading Congress to pass a law prohibiting the killing, selling or possession of the bird. In 2007, the bald eagle was removed from the threatened and endangered species list.

Hogan said applications for a permit to kill or capture a bald eagle are rare. Native Americans often have to get bald eagle feathers for their ceremonies from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife national feather repository in Denver. Hogan said it can take years for the tribes to get the feathers this way, because demand often exceeds supply.

Holden, who is part Choetaw/Shickasaw, sought to put some perspective on the situation: "If someone ordered a Bible or some religious artifact and they had to wait for a long time, how fair is that?"

The permit is good until February 2013, and Hogan said he knows of no other applications being filed. As part of permit, the tribe has to notify the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within 24 hours once the bald eagles are killed or captured.

Hogan said he is still waiting for that word.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Faith Now • United States

soundoff (1,883 Responses)
  1. Erika Becerra

    What good will come out of killing an innocent creature? I would imagine that natives know everything there is to know about Bald Eagles since they say that these majestic birds are sacred. Do they know that they are excellent parents? Do they know that they don't kill for fun and that squirrels and sparrows hang around their nests? I've had the opportunity to observe them thanks to conservationists setting up cameras to give the public the opportunity to learn from and about these wonderful creatures that represent this country. It is a shame that a bunch of politicians and pencil pushers have the authority to give permission to a bunch of barbarians to kill a beautiful creature for the fun of it. I am disgusted! I don't know of a singe native organization or individual who is working to help these eagles. I am tired of the country vowing down to natives. Whatever happened is in the past and those living today didn't suffer anything. In fact, it is better that things changed. I don't want the world to be ruled by ignorant barbarians. Whoever is cruel to an animal is not a good person. Whoever thinks that killing an innocent eagle will bring something good to him/her is no more than an ignorant lunatic. May their worst fears come true if they kill an innocent eagle. May the same thing happen to those who are mute.

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  3. Tressea

    There are bad apples in every culture. Of course you shouldn't kill for religious or spiritual purposes. This doesn't make a whole culture bad. What I'd like to know is why our government supported this and why its in the news? Possibly to stir up prejudice and name calling as seen in these posts?

    October 14, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  4. Harshad

    Posted on Can you think of ten different tnhigs to do with your fails?Burn it.Sneak it into a trick-or-treater's bag with the candy you give out.Mail it to a country with a culture far different from yours for them to figure it out.Destroy it with a hammer/scissors/etc, put a light bulb next to it and call it art.Label it (without destroying it) outsider art' and sell it for far more than is reasonable.Grind it up into a powder/shred it to dust/etc and let it blow away in the wind.Buy it a pair of cement shoes.Give it to someone you want to break up with as a valentine's day present.Flush it (if possible and you have a sewer not a septic!) down the toilet.Back over it with the car before anyone who could have seen it will think anything else went wrong.-skh

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.