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. Bob

    SPA Knight, no, you get an epic fail on your claim re sacrifice. Read Matthew. Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But again, why and how could an omnipotent being actually sacrifice anything, or need to? The idiotic bullcr@p that you've fallen for in your Christian supersti-tion is stunning.

    The bible is also very clear that you should sacrifice and burn an animal today because the smell makes your sicko Christian sky fairy happy. No, you don't get to use the parts for food. You burn them, a complete waste of the poor animal.

    Yes, the bible really says that, everyone. Yes, it's in Leviticus, look it up. Yes, Jesus purportedly said that the OT commands still apply. No exceptions. But even if you think the OT was god's mistaken first go around, you have to ask why a perfect, loving enti-ty would ever put such horrid instructions in there. If you think rationally at all, that is.

    So get out your sacrificial knife or your nasty sky creature will torture you eternally. Or just take a closer look at your foolish supersti-tions, understand that they are just silly, and toss them into the dustbin with all the rest of the gods that man has created.

    Please, stop referencing that Christian book of nasty, AKA the bible, as a guide to, well, anything.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains. Be free of religion in 2012.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Amurica

      Bob – stop posting and reposting the same slop and come enjoy some eagle-ka-bobs. They're made with 100% American Spirit and go great with a loaf of baby.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  2. Daknik

    The facts are this, they applied for a permit two years ago, waiting for the slim chance that the permit would be approved before they did anything and now they have a permit... the idea that they would go on a killing rampage now is kind of ridiculous. They have followed every step required, showing a clear respect for the law and should be allowed to proceed. Leave them alone to do what they will with their religion.
    If you don't like killing animals in religious ceremonies, then my advice to you is don't join their religion... there are plenty of other alternatives out there for you.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  3. Amurica

    Wait... you can't kill Bald Eagles?

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  4. c

    Ok, I have got to ask this... Why is everyone on hear protesting against killing the Eagle, but not any other animal. Nor protesting the killing of innocents over in Sudan or Syria???? You Americans need to get some priories together, when you hold up purses, shoes, and other materialistic crap over humans and animals, and you want the world and others in the US to take you seriously.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • c

      priorities = priories

      March 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Answerman28

      The article is about EAGLES moron.. not another animal and certainly not Syria.. If you want to run for office you're in the wrong place.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Simon Says

      I gotta cash in some of my moron chips....BRB.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  5. Alexandria

    Quote: 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 difference is that a Bible or an artifact is not a living being that you are going to KILL for its feathers. I'd say that is a pretty big difference.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • J.C.

      Well said.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Jim

    wow, at least now i dont feel so bad for hunting all those bald eagles the past few years. I have a good excuse now.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  7. alain kardos

    More American Religious ignorance you just have to follow the GOP presidential race !!

    March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  8. BytraWatches

    Man those poor Native Americans, do they realize what they just subjected themselves to??? OMG, they are now in the crosshairs of PITA who will be knocking on their front door before the end of the weekend and protesting against them until their ancestors advise them to surrendor once again. Good luck Native Americans, I hope your culture can survive the onslaught you are about to endure. And you thought getting an application approved by the US government was the worst thing you ever endured!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Khris

      your comment is comical

      March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • drillteamer

      the acronym you're looking for is PETA. Pita is a harmless (and delicious) bread product.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • DeTamble

      I am suprised he didnt use "Peter".

      March 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  9. ObamaJoe

    Can we grow bald eagles at home for religious purposes????????????????????????????

    March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • BytraWatches

      Sure, if you are willing to pay the bribe, I mean permit fee, I mean permit fee!!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Sure, dont forget to water twice a week.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  10. mary lontz


    March 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  11. Com

    My faith does not include abuse or killing of any of God's creatures – human or animal – as an act of religious practice.

    Thankfully, it has been many centuries that my ancestors had any religious practices that were sickening by today's standards. Freedom of belief or faith should be protected, but harming, abusing or killing people OR animals should be banned for all faiths! Bad behaviour of an individual or group shouldn't rely on the excuse of expressing your freedom of religion, it should be freedom of faith and belief, but not abusing or killing.

    The majority of Christians don't practice the way Christians of eons ago did, there is no reason native Americans can't modernize their belief practices, just as other faiths have modernized their practices.

    Can you imagine killing animals as an offering to the gods being ok in your neighborhood Methodist church? I don't think so. Perhaps some cruel punishment for those that don't attend a church service? It was ok wayyyy back when and it's part of a religous "law"... how would you like that to be re-enacted and protected by Freedom of Religion?

    Perhaps the polygamist and child rapists in places such as Colorado City just forgot to get a permit for their bad behaviour based on religious freedoms.....

    March 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  12. Dzerres

    What does this have to do with religion? I know religion makes no sense but this goes beyond that. Cancel their casino permits: they can either choose to live in the dark ages or the modern age – no picking and choosing.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  13. Donald Smith

    I respect the Native American culture being a fairly decent amount Native American myself. But we have rules to prevent species from going extinct. The fact is, the bald eagle is the symbol of America and should be protected just like any other national monument. We wouldn't allow someone to tear down the Vietnam Memorial because of their religion and the bald eagle should be treated with the same respect.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  14. WildMontana

    Why don't they just smoke some peyote and be done with it? Maybe they should watch Disney's "The Legend of the Boy and the Eagle."

    March 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • Mikoid

      Smoke Peyote?

      March 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  15. Right

    So where can I file a permit to kill people for tribute to my lord the all mighty Satan. Don't I have the right to do perform a human sacrafice in the name of my lord. What is one or two people? It isn't going to hurt the population. Or is that "too" evil of a religion?

    March 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • forwardmarch

      @Right – LOL! Thanks for making my day! That was funny!

      March 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • Feed Your Head

      I will donate a couple of Republicans.
      They wont be missed.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  16. Answerman28

    The birds are going to die because of absurd folklore that is thousands of years old about supernatural beings.. Religion is without a doubt, man's darkest hour. Poor birds. Why dont they sacrifice a few religious morons instead??

    March 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • forwardmarch

      Maybe they can sacrifice some chickens or turkeys instead – nobody cares if these birds are killed, so they don't need permits. Also, they have the added bonus of being able to sit down to a nice hot meal of chicken or turkey afterwards.

      March 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • J.C.

      Hope somebody posts it on YouTube. That'll really rile folks up.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  17. Balogna

    I call malarkey. They have done fine without for all this time. they don't need to kill an endangered animal for an reason. They just think they should be able to because of who their relatives are? Its 2012. Sorry about what happened to your ancestors, but they've been dead for a very long time, and won't be getting any less dead. This is America now. Societies rise and fall, not like the tribes didn't slaughter each other just the same before the white folk got here. Your society was at an end. Be glad your ancestors lived long enough to make you, and get over it like every other race has had to do at some point in history. You make victims of yourselves. You think that's honorable?

    March 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Loreeeeeeeeeeeeeeebee

      I'll be sure to remind you of this when China takes over in about 20 years.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  18. Tony

    If all they need is feathers, there are plenty of bald eagles in zoos and other wildlife refuges, so why don't they just contact those places and get some feathers from them!

    March 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  19. Nate in CA

    Well that sets back my feelings of acceptance of general native religions by about 30 years.

    March 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
  20. DC

    Do they get to run casinos for religious purposes too?

    March 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
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About this blog

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.