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. TexDoc

    Please note it's the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Have nothing to do with anyone from that tribe and their businesses. If they want to kill our nation's symbol, we have the right not to associate with them in anyway. Refuse service to them in all areas of life, including health care and food.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Bob

      Dude – get a life! Remember, they were here first.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bob

      ...."our nation" – pfffft, give me a friggin break!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Diana


      March 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      In many cases denial of health care is illegal; good luck with that, TexTroll.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  2. James

    I have been to many Pow-wows and I can tell you that these people have no intention of killing off the eagles. They do run DEEP in there religion though. It is all but imposible for them to get the feathers that they want so badly. I wonder if there was a streamlined process for them to recieve birds killed in accedents if this would be less of a situation.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. John

    Well just where in the hell is MY permit to kill two North American Arapahos as part of a religious ceremony? I filed my application nearly 2 months before they did. What in the hell is going on here?

    I demand to speak to the manager.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • LaTuya83

      There are probably less Arapahos that Bald Eagles, you're people already killed most of the off.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Nonimus

      ahh ha ha ha.... yeah, not really funny... kinda stupid actually.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  4. CBTLD

    I wish ALL religion would be sacrificed for the good of the bald eagle and mankind alike.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Hey, best idea yet!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  5. Kathy McKnight

    No living being, bird, animal, or mammal should be sacraficed for any reason, period.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Bob

      Lets be clear – there is no talk about "sacrificing" the eagle!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • fritz

      I agree. wild animals should not be abused or sacrificed for the sake of religion. Those crazy snake christians should be thrown in jail as well for abusing serpents in their silly rituals. Wild animals have a hard enough time trying to survive the onslaught of human encroachment without having to be killed for the sake of some human's religious bent. I live where eagles nest and it's a morning treat nearly every day to watch them soar above the river gorge. I'm nearly half native american and I say leave the eagles alone.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Wait... does that include my morning bacon?

      March 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  6. CaptSteve

    Why not raise live eagles and harvest their feathers over time without killing them.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • CBTLD


      That's an excellent, sane, and rational suggestion. However, the article mentioned religion, though, so excellent, sane and rational solutions will not work.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Brianna

      Because it's illegal to kill, capture or possess them. In order to harvest their feathers, they would have to be held in captivity, which is illegal for the tribe to do.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I would also guess that domesticating or breeding eagles in captivity would be darn near impossible, given the nature of the animal. Look at how tough it was with Condors back in 1988, "a $20-million baby hatched at the San Diego Wild Animal Park on Friday..." (http://articles.latimes.com/1988-04-30/news/mn-2039_1_california-condor)

      March 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  7. only-in-america

    OMG The Natives are granted the right to kill bald eagles!! ITS THE END OF THE WORLD!!!.........sarcasm

    March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      We just can't comprehend it because they want to do something that they will not make millions of dollars off of. Thats why the rest of America does things, they just seem backwards. We hate things we can't understand.

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

      But the catholic church can't follow their religion as it relates to reproduction? Talk about hypocrisy at its highest level, this prez can do that. He has darn near re-invented hypocrisy.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
  8. Victoria

    I hope they aren't drunk when they go out and shoot the poor birds!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      I hope they do their hunting in an upper class white neighborhood.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  9. Blunt

    The white man took our land..SO know we take it back starting with the birds kill them all!!!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Huh?


      March 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  10. Bald Eagle #542

    The Native Indians have always revered Mother Earth..
    Many moons ago, my grandfather told me of the story of his ancestor, Bald Eagle #5, who was taken by the Indians and sacrificed for the sake of thanks to Mother Earth for her blessings. This story was handed down through to me and will be passed down to my eaglets once they are old enough to understand the importance of freedoms, and giving thanks, and giving back to Mother Earth. What you immigrants (and I mean everyone EXCEPT the Native Americans) do not understand is that the earth and its creatures all should be revered.. The Native Americans do..and in their ways of understanding, a sacrifice of the most revered American Eagle is an honor to the Earth. We American Eagles understand what it is all about. We're not afraid.. or worried. It is an honor. Leanr the Native American ways of WHY before you bring out your hate.

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

      man, if the filth, trash, waste I have seen on reservations is revering mother earth, I would hate to see the opposite. Oh yea, it's the Anglo who trashed all those reservations..............

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

      By your logic if I worshiped a dog god and it required me to sacrifice your pet cat then you would be OK with it.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • BER

      ummm killing an animal that is at risk for extinction is NOT giving thanks to "mother earth". This is 2012....you might have thought it was helping the earth back in the 1600s, but now that we KNOW for a FACT that it does NOT help the earth to kill an eagle, you should change your ceremonies.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Bald Eagle #542

      Ah yes.. I have seen the filth and trash on the reservations... I have seen filth and trash everywhere outside the reservations as well. But I do believe your segue is not where this is to go. It is all about what the Americans have always done even before the eagle was granted the name American Eagle. We are not endangered anymore. Is it much different than people killing other animals for furs or food or sport? Yes it is. This is a part of their spiritual lives. Is killing for sport spiritual? Is killing for animal furs to wear? Is killing for food spiritual? NO
      It was pleasant carrying on this conversation, but I must fly to higher ground.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Bald Eagle #542,
      I don't have a problem with the Arapahos doing this, however, implying that the eagles themselves understand and are honored to be sacrificed is just silly. They are animals and care nothing for our stupid rituals and do not appreciate being killed in any way whatsoever.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer works. Here is the Christian band DEVO to sing how it works.


    March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  12. Kong

    I guess Native American have no respect for Bald Eagle while white American do have respect for the bald eagle.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      I think thats a pretty narow minded view of the situation.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  13. Ahmed Orleans

    These Eagles are hiding trying to acquire peaceful nuclear technology. The native population will not stand for this, only natives can be scientifically advanced, NOT Eagles! We must conduct a first strike no matter how stupid it sounds! All options are on the table including: arrows, rifles, handguns, shotguns, slinshot, nets, traps, deep fryer!

    March 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  14. Anonymous


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

      mmmmmm doughnuts...

      March 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • Homer

      mmmm.... eagle and dressing

      March 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Harry

    The Seal of the President of the United States has a Eagle on it. This is our National Bird. We allow this, then next someone will come and say I need to burn the US flag for religious purposes. What's next??? This is Pathethic..

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

      Native Americans were here way before any of us or our European descendants came. Even when they came they were welcomed with open arms and helped by the Native Americans. In turn we took their land and forced them into little plots of worthless land.

      Their use of the Eagle as part of their religious ceremony has been around far longer than the 250 years of existance of this country. And you think we have the right to say "no" to their way of worship?

      If you do, I hope that the Middle Easterners invade and take this country over just so they can supress your right to live the way you want and prevent your right to consider the Bald Eagle the national bird. I would be the first to laugh at you in person. I still do. LOL. Think before you type.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • Mark

      One other thing. I find it funny how people complain about kill the bald eagle as part of their religious ceremony but not complain about killing a Turkey during the United States Thanksgiving Religious Holiday. Any day were we give thanks to "God" for anything is a religious holiday and that includes Thanksgiving. Yet I have not heard a single gripe about killing a Turkey.

      I like the Bald Eagle, and I think their magestic to look at. I love America and what it stands for, "Life, LIberty, and Pursuit of Happiness". What I hate is when others try to take it away, like all you posters talking about how bad it is for them to do that to the bird. How would you like it if we take away the sacrement from all religious services so that it is fair, because by depriving the Native Americans of that Bald Eagle kill, you do exactly that. Hippocrits! AND GOD HATES HIPOCRITES, read the Bible.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Greg

      Yeah....umm....flag burning is protected first amendment expression. But, hey...if it offends you, it must be illegal, right?

      March 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • Aony

      Actually, you don't need a permit to burn the American flag, you can burn it if you feel like burning it. However, an American Bald Eagle is a protected species, and it is illegal to kill one.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  16. Manny

    Not all religions sacrifice like this. If one does,, we have to decide what is in their best interest and what is in the best interest of the sacrifice. By the way didn't some religion sacrifice virgins?? What next! Government has no place in religion and vice versa. Religion can be in the hearts of those in government, that's it!

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

      Um, technically, since government has no place in religion, then the government has no right to stop the killing of these two birds for religious purposes. The regulatory obstruction would be interference not the allowing of the sacrifice. That said, this ruling makes sense. As would the government getting its nose out of who can and cannot receive the sacrement of marriage.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Ummm... wasn't Jesus "sacrificed"?

      March 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • fred

      The sacrament of marriage? What exactly do you mean? The Government and no individual has any power to say what God accepts as a marriage which glorifies God. The only biblical purpose for marriage is unity under Christ (who under God is head fo the man and man is over the woman in marriage) since Old Hebrew law was fulfilled in Christ that is where we are today.

      March 16, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Bruce

    Its sad that we want to grant this Indian tribe the right to kill two Bald Eagles. I am surprise that this tribe of indians wants to kill any animal for their feathers even if it is for a religious ceremonies. We should make sure there are feathers for them to use without killing a Bald Eagle for their. A time back when the Indians were the only ones here, before we came and settle this great land, it was OK. But today it does not make any sense and it should not be granted for any reason. I do love the Indians and respect their beliefs, but there has to be another way for them to acquire what they desirer.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  18. The Jackdaw

    I have a question. Why do the Native Americans even need to apply for a permit for this? Their reservations are supposed to be a sovereign nation. If the bird lands on their land, they should be able to do with it as they please. The US government should have no say in the matter.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • The Jackdaw

      Don't all answer at once. American's love to jump up and down and yell and scream when the Fed's overstep their bounds, I guess they just dont care about the Natives.

      March 16, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • earnest T Bass

      I agree with you too. Well said. Give them Turkey Feathers instead.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Johnson Get in here

      the states have no say over the tribal land, the feds do have authority over all natives land

      March 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  19. Jack

    Why not give them the eagles that are killed every year by the windmills at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of
    Oakland CA. About 70 eagles a year are killed by them thar wind mills.

    March 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm |

      why don't they net those windmills?

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

      Thanks, green energy saving the environment while killing the eagles

      March 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Jay

    Not that I am that against this ruling, (I feel the loss of two eagles for Native American rituals is not the end of the world..) but doesn't it in some way violate the idea of separation of church and state? I am also not a practicing christian, but if the government allowed the killing of something for Judeo-christian purposes, most of the nation would be up in arms... Stuck in the middle indeed...

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

      I think it might be be because the Native Americans have their own government with laws separate from the United States.

      March 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37
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.