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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 • United States

soundoff (1,883 Responses)
  1. Liz

    This is the 21st century! There is no reason to kill wildlife now; we should be doing all we can to protect what little there is left of our precious natural heritage.

    If the Indians want to use feathers; use faux feathers. It is wrong to kill animals for vanity or religious purposes; this isn't the Dark ages.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • A

      Liz, do you own a pair of Ugg boots like every other female American? If so, you're killing sheep.

      Animals are here for as a resource for man (and woman) to use., and unfortunately, kill.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Bhoss

      part of the reason wildlife is killed is because humans have taken up so much of their habitat that there is less food for them to eat so the herd must be trimmed to prevent them from eating all their food and starving to death. this may not be the reason to kill bald eagles, but it is a reason to kill/hunt wildlife. And just remember its fun too.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  2. G D

    Native tribes are sovereign nations, their beliefs are their own whether we agree with those or not. Same with people in our own tribe, like Mitt & Rick & Newt. If the eagle population will not be hurt, it is not our affair to intrude.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  3. GenericMan

    I would think they could do whatever they wanted without asking for our permission.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  4. Really???

    American Eagles migrate from the lower 48 through Canada to Alaska. Canadians kill bald eagles like Americans kill game birds and put them on public display. I'd rather not see eagles get killed, find other options to fill the religious needs, but I understand the need and the ceremonial significance.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  5. James

    Hate to point this out, but they (Native Americans) were here first. We're the invaders. The eagles were theirs LONG before they were ours. And, btw, the eagles were endangered at one point because of OUR hunting and exploitation of them, not the native american's.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I have no problem with Native Americans doing this, but your logic seems off.

      In one sense, no one has a "right" to the eagles. In another sense, they have a right to all eagles alive before the US took over, but not those alive now.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • oldbear60

      Eagles belong to eagles. You own the domestic animal, not the wild ones.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Deanna

      Since we slaughtered most of them its okay for them to slaughter a helpless, harmless BIRD? Does not compute.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • A

      Unless you're a vegan that does not wear leather or fur, you really have no right critiquing whether the Native Americans should be "allowed" to kill these eagles.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • NorCalMojo

      Will you ever stop crying?

      100 years of special rights and privileges and you're STILL whining. There was a time when Native Americans were known as stoic warriors, now they're known as perpetual crybabies.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  6. bunchacrap

    It's pretty sad when the government allows the killing of our national symbol so some peyote-crazed indian can run around with its feathers on . . . it's sickening!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Yeah, but eating zombie flesh every sunday and hunting for sport because its "american" and saying "in God we trust" is less sickening.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Definitely Real

      Boy do I hope you're trolling. Otherwise, you exemplify the bigotry that America is famous for.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • LordHaveMercy
      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • A

      Who cares? It's an animal that isn't even endangered anymore.Plenty of people wear leather, fur, shearling for non-religious, cosmetic reasons. What doesn't give them the right to kill this animal?

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • James

      Hey BUNCHACRAP. Would that be as opposed to the glorification of a religious belief system which glorifies violence by wearing a representation of a man being killed on a torture device around their neck (Christianity)? Or the acceptance of a belief system which requires all butchered animals to first be bled to death before butchering and eating (Jewish)? The fact that it is not your belief system and it seems strange to you does NOT make it wrong, barbaric or sickening. It just makes it different than what you believe.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  7. oldbear60

    Fine. Make them do it the way their ancestors did. No modern fire arms. Dig the pit, put the warrior in the pit and use a bait to attrack the eagle. Stone knife and hands and skins. Nothing modern is they are so sure it's religion. Want to bet theiir will be feathers , claws etc. on the black market for collectors. Religion my ass. If the "creator" wants an eagle, he can gather it himself.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Interesting... didn't know eagles were caught with a pit ambush. kinda cool actually.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Bhoss

      not sure what your goal is here, you want the eagle to suffer before its killed? how inhuman. personally a firearm would work much faster and put the animal down quickly, dead before it hit the ground.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  8. Annie

    Once again brutal and unnecessary killing is done in the name of religion. Religion sucks no matter if you are a christian, muslim, jew, buddhist, etc. No respect for life, any life, in the name of religion is what makes this a very sick world.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      As a staunch athiest, I would like to disagree with that. I think the goal if religion is good, even when sacrifice is taking place. I argue that it is people that are bad, that do bad things in the name of religion. Evil deeds take conviction. Religion is conviction. All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Marky

      You are a vegetarian, I take it? You have never made it so that an animal die for your benefit?
      Idiot.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • michaelwg

      Annie I agree, and even Jackdaw agreed after saying he disagreed which I found kind of funny :)

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • michaelwg

      Marky, she used the word "unnecessary"
      Sustenance is necessary.
      idiot.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Sorry, but isn't all death "in the name of religion," at least according to most religions.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      Please remember to distnguish between 'religion' (a political construction) and 'spirituality' (the relationship one has with whatever he/she believes to be their Creator). Religions are often vehicles for corrupt men (mostly) to pursue a path to power; spirituality needs no trappings of the material world, and no need to impose one's will on others. I don't really agree with Annie, a bit extreme, and since we kill animals for food, and this is legal and not cruel, so I got no beef, so to speak.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Lady Celt

    Yet another stupid blunder by our so called "goverment"...

    March 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Bhoss

      i agree its a shame that it could take so long for them to get bald eagle feathers.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  10. MARY

    IF KILLING IS BEING CLOSE TO THEIR CREATOR I AM GLAD "IT" DID NOT CREATE ME.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • LordHaveMercy

      Mary forgets that it took the killing of Jesus for us to get close to our creator =[

      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    The BEER god said all rednecks shall worship BEER.......if you believe in the BEER god, then drink beer!!!....hahaha!! Now all you rednecks have something to worship!!!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Nonimus

      But what about all the poor defenseless wheat, barley, and hops?

      March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  12. scott

    imagine that it was Pres. Bush giving the Catholic church permission to slaughter two eagles, or crows for all that matters; where would the liberals and PETA be? and by the way, why haven't we heard from PETA?

    March 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • michaelwg

      Bush is responsible for over 200,000 deaths in the Middle east. Catholics are responsible for millions over history and it's still going on in some parts of the world.
      On the grand scale of things, a couple of birds are nothing.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Greg

      Thats why this country has gone to hell in a hand bag over the last decade. So much partisan politics on issues that have nothing to do with the office of the president, or rather you are conservative or liberal or not. If you want to blame someone blame the National wildlife assoc, and the Araphno Indian tribe that made the request.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  13. Felix

    Native Americans have more right to this country than any European descendant or from anywhere else in the planet. These eagles are more theirs than the federal government who exploited the indigenous tribes in North America for thousands for years. Haven't we taken enough from them?Let them keep their old customs but in the old traditional ways...no modern weaponry.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I don't have a problem with granting this permit, but "than the federal government who exploited the indigenous tribes in North America for thousands for years?" You mean the government of a country founded in 1776? (hint: 235 years and change)

      March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • come on

      These eagles are more theirs? Tell it to the eagle in their crosshairs.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • bunchacrap

      "Native Americans have more right to this country than any European descendant or from anywhere else in the planet."

      Yes they do! . . . and they're getting their revenge each and every day by consuming some poor suckers paycheck in one of their slot machines.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • steve

      So lets stop all the social programs these poor folks soak the taxpayer for..................the trade off is they can live in the middle of nowhere doing whay they want...............and I'll change my name to Custer.......won't make the same mistakes tho

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Craig Horton

      Kennewick Man begs to differ with your assertion that Native Americans are in fact indigenous. Your "indigenous" indians invaded the people who were here before them... it's like pot calling the kettle black.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • asdrel

      "... the federal government who exploited the indigenous tribes in North America for thousands for years..."

      Thousands of years? Really? Our Federal government has only been around a little over 200 years, and Europeans in the Americas for a bit over 400 years. Gross exaggeration doesn't help your argument much.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Cherokee1

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • T. Storm

      I would like to know where you get your math. Very creative.... "exploiting them for thousands of years"? Eurpoeans have only been in the New World roughly 600 yrs,... hardly "thousands".....

      March 16, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  14. Stuck in the Middle

    They should also have to kill it with a rock

    March 16, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  15. Jeff

    Isn't it an American tradition to kill Native Americans? Can we have two??

    March 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • steve

      Can you say 'gatling'......yea baby

      March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • abe

      What a childish moron post, enough said.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  16. arapho hiller

    In my reisionus kills arapho so can I have a permit to kill arapho I can say that Im a native americons

    March 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Arnold

      Try spell checker, and a formal education before posting.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  17. Kathleen Prapuolenis

    I really can't take much more of the slow destruction of our Nations species, ourr children being told they can't pledge of allegiance, we can't put crosses up, every little thing we say has to be politically correct, the twisting of the media, and on and on. This makes me cry. I dont care what religion you are, you don't have to kill our National Bird. I am starting to think its not right to farm any animals or eat them either. Maybe we would be a much healthier nations. All I can say to those birds is
    "Fly like and Eagle" and as fast as you can.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Mike in NJ

      You might want to look into whose nation this REALLY is. And who REALLY brought about the near extinction of the bald eagle. And who REALLY has always cared about and for the environment. Education is a wonderful thing.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Scott

      Kathleen, It is thier National Bird. We stole the Nation and the birds from them when we arrived on thier land..

      March 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • stercus

      "ourr children being told they can't pledge of allegiance, we can't put crosses up"

      "I dont care what religion you are, you don't have to kill our National Bird."

      So it is wrong only when YOUR religious freedoms are trampled on. Talk about un-American.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bhoss

      your upset because "you can't put crosses up" yet you want to limit another's religious acts. selfish

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Arnold

      Native Americans were killing the eagles long before we (the descendants of Europeans) came along and told them they couldn't. DDT killed off the population more than any Native American ceremonial practice... In my opinion, the tribe could have taken the high road and killed a wounded bird. Reelfoot Lake, TN has several captured eagles that have broken wings, missing feet, ect....cull the bird out of that captive group.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • steve

      We did not 'steal' thier land, we kicked their collective butts and took it....like good Anglo Christians.....................pass the bullets!!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  18. Stuck in the Middle

    Who said religious law doesn't trump civil law in the United States?

    March 16, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • bignevermo

      what civil law is being broken? they have been issued a permit to capture or kill two eagles as part of a ceremony. no laws are being broken sir!

      March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  19. OhCanada

    In Canada, we let the natives do whatever they want, kill whatever they want AND give them free money every month… Think 2 eagles is bad? Help us AMERICA!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • trash

      you are a sorry piece of trailer trash arnt ya?

      March 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  20. Don K

    Yet another reason that all religions should be abandoned....

    March 16, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.